Italian Police Bust Art Smugglers and Seize $16 Million Picasso

Authorities also recovered an $8.7 million ancient Roman statue.

Pablo Picasso in Cannes, 1957
Photo: René Burri/Magnum via Time Magazine

Italian police have confiscated a €15 million ($16.33 million) painting by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and an ancient Roman statue worth  €8 million ($8.71 million) from suspected smugglers.

The news comes on the heels of the announcement that Christie’s New York has placed a $140 million estimate on Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (1955), a strong indication that the piece could break the record $142.2 million sale of Francis Bacon‘s Three Studies of Lucian Freud set in 2013 (see $140 Million Picasso at Christie’s Is World’s Most Expensive Painting at Auction).

The Picasso canvas picked up in Italy, as reported by the AFP, is believed to be a Cubist work from 1912, while the statue, which is said to be quite rare and well-preserved, is from the second or third century. Authorities seized the two artworks before they could be shipped out of the country.

Pablo Picasso, <em>Man With a Violin</em> (1912). Photo: courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Pablo Picasso, Man With a Violin (1912).
Photo: courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Picasso thefts have made major headlines in recent months, between the artist’s former electrician being found guilty of possessing stolen Picasso artworks he claimed had been given him as a gift (see Picasso’s Electrician, Pierre Le Guennec, Found Guilty, Must Return Paintings),and the Cubist Picasso painting stolen over a decade ago that US Customs officials discovered last month being passed off as a  cheap “art craft” gift (see Stolen Picasso Seized in Newark Shipped as $37 Christmas Present).

Though details about the provenance of the works recovered today are currently scarce, they are being described as similar to objects in the collections of the British Museum in London and the Vatican Museum. A press conference offering additional information is scheduled to be held today in Rome.

For more artnet News coverage of art theft see:

See Stolen Gardner Museum Artworks Online, Thanks to Google Art Project

Rembrandt Theft Remarkably Similar to Novel the Goldfinch

Bronze Statues Recovered 32 Years After ‘Broad Daylight’ Theft in New York


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