Police Confiscate $16 Million Picasso From Framer Who Claims It Was A Gift

He claims he didn't know he had a Picasso on his hands.

Pablo Picasso in Mougins, France, 1971 Photo via: The Guardian

Pablo Picasso in Mougins, France, 1971
Photo via: The Guardian

A retired Italian framer claims the Cubist Picasso painting confiscated in a police raid was a thank you gift for an act of kindness, the Guardian reports (see Italian Police Bust Art Smugglers and Seize $16 Million Picasso).

The Rome resident told police investigators that the $16 million painting was given to him in 1978 by a grieving widower. The alleged gift was made by the elderly man after the framer had replaced the glass on a picture of the bereaved man’s late wife for free.

The framer says the widower gave him no indication of the painting’s value or significance. He maintains that it was only last year that he had realized the oil on canvas in his possession was a Picasso.

The Cubist artwork, which depicts a violin and a bottle of Bass beer, was authenticated by police experts as a 1912 work by the Spanish artist. An investigation is currently underway to establish the painting’s true owner.

The cubist painting  La Coiffeuse by Pablo Picasso was considered missing for over a decade. Photo: AP/US Department of Justice

The Cubist painting La Coiffeuse by Pablo Picasso recently recovered by US Customs officers was considered missing for over a decade.
Photo: AP/US Department of Justice

An attempt by Sotheby’s to secure a state authorization to export the painting last year–with a declared estimate value of €1.4 million ($1.51 million)–triggered the police investigation.

Two other major seizures were made last Friday by the specialist police unit dealing with crimes related to art works and cultural artifacts. In addition to the painting, a Roman sculpture dating from the second or third century and estimated at €8 million ($8.71 million) was also recovered in the raid.

Police also seized an invaluable oil painting of St Mark’s Square in Venice by noted Italian landscape painter Luca Carlevarijs (1665-1731) from the suspected ring of smugglers.

Several stolen Picasso paintings have been recovered in recent months, where gifting appears to be a common thread: the artist’s former electrician was found guilty of possessing stolen works he claimed had been given to him as a gift (see Picasso’s Electrician, Pierre Le Guennec, Found Guilty, Must Return Paintings). US customs officials found a Picasso painting–stolen over a decade ago–that was shipped as a cheap “art craft” gift (see Stolen Picasso Seized in Newark Shipped as $37 Christmas Present).

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