Online Sleuths Just Spotted a Rather Suspicious-Looking Picasso Painting Above Imelda Marcos’s Sofa

Many are now wondering if the work seized by officials nine years ago was a fake—or if this one is.

"Lifestyle-Philippines-Imelda,FEATURE-INTERVIEW" by Karl Wilson Former first lady Imelda Marcos is seen in her apartment in Manila, 27 June 2007, ROMEO GACAD/AFP via Getty Images)

Online sleuths are up in arms after a video surfaced late last week allegedly showing the former first lady of the Philippines—and the mother of its recent president-elect—with a missing Pablo Picasso painting, though the actual authenticity of the work remains somewhat unclear.

The artwork seen about the sofa of Imelda Marcos is thought by some to be the genuine iteration of Picasso’s 1932 Femme Couchée VI. The work is among the more than 200 works of art that Marcos and her husband, former president and kleptocrat Ferdinand Marcos, may have acquired with ill-gotten money while he was in power between 1965 and 1986. It is also one of a group of artworks that was seized by anti-corruption authorities in 2014. Many are now wondering if the work taken from the family nine years ago was a fake.

The Picasso resurfaced online during a documented visit by her son, president-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., after his landslide victory in last week’s national election. The return of the Marcos to power has drawn the ire of those who suffered under his father’s dictatorship. The Picasso is thought to be a lasting symbol of the wealth his family purged.

During his 20-year rule, Marcos Sr. had a deplorable human rights record and was accused of embezzling billions of dollars during his time in power. His wife has long dodged her own accusations of largesse, known for her expensive taste in designer shoes.

The Picasso in question was supposed to have been seized by the government in a raid of a family home in 2014, but a former Presidential Commission on Good Government commissioner, Andres Bautista, is now questioning what, exactly, the authorities grabbed.

“Personally I know that what we seized was a fake,” he told the news site Rappler last week. He urged the government to take action now while they can. 

Critics now believe that Marcos Jr., the president-elect, might quash any remaining attempts by the state to seize assets controlled by his family. As president, Marcos Jr. has the power to appoint a new commissioner of the PCGG, the organization tasked with retrieving assets stolen under his father’s rule, which has so far retrieved $5 billion. Another $2.4 billion is bogged down by litigation.

Femme Couchée VI is a well-known portrayal of his muse, Marie-Thérèse Walter. It is thought to be one of several in private hands, with another version of the work set to hit the auction block this week as part of Sotheby’s Modern Evening Auction.

Another former commissioner of the PCGG, Ruben Carranza, told The Guardian that it remains to be seen whether the Picasso in Marcos’s home is real or not, as she apparently has a taste for forgeries, too. But even that, he said, is telling. 

“The fact that she’s now displaying it just shows not just the duplicity of Mrs. Marcos—but that she has to display the duplicity and the extravagance that she thinks she’s displaying for Filipinos to see, said Carranza. “That says something even worse.”

With many continuing to believe that the Marcoses hid huge sums of wealth through a complex network of lawyers and off-shore arrangements, the Guardian reported last week that vast sums of gold would be returned to the family if they regained power, accusations Marcos Jr. has denied.

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