$27 Million Picasso Masterpiece Smuggled from Spain by Banker Seized in Corsica

The early masterpiece belongs to banker Jaime Botín, who bought it in 1977.

Pablo Picasso in Mougins, France in 1971. Photo: Ralph Gatti/AFP/Getty Images.

An early painting by Pablo Picasso declared a Spanish national treasure and barred from leaving Spain has been seized by French authorities from a boat docked in Corsica, El Mundo reports.

Picasso’s Head of a Young Woman (1906), worth around €25 million ($27 Million) is the property of the banker Jaime Botín, brother of the late banker and philanthropist Emilo Botín, from the Santander group. It was declared a cultural treasure by the Spanish National Court in May 2015 and refused an export permit.

The French customs authority stated that an attempt to export the painting to Switzerland on Thursday “drew the attention of French officials.” Customs agents on the French island boarded the vessel the following day and found the painting. Botín wasn’t on the vessel.

The boat is registered to a company of which Botín is shareholder and sports a British flag, according to a customs authority spokesperson.

The captain could only present two documents, one of which was precisely the May 2015 court ruling ordering that the painting is not to be taken out of the country.

A request for permission to export the painting out of Spain was first presented in December 2012 by Christie’s Iberica on behalf of the company Euroshipping Charter Company Ltd., linked to Jaime Botín, according to El País.

The initial destination was London, but José Ignacio Wert, Minister of Education, Culture, and Sports, refused to allow the painting to leave Spain.

Euroshipping Charter Company Ltd. has contested the ruling ever since. It claimed that it was the company, not Botín, that owned Head of a Young Woman and that the artwork was not based within Spanish territory, since it was located on a boat sporting a British flag and therefore subject to British regulations (even if the boat was docked in Valencia, Spain).

The Spanish court hasn’t accepted the arguments provided by Euroshipping.

Botín acquired Head of a Young Woman in 1977. The artwork was painted by Picasso when he was 24 years and is one of the very few examples of Picasso’s Gósol period, named in reference to the village in Catalonia where he settled in 1906. This period is considered key for Picasso’s subsequent Cubist evolution.

French authorities are now waiting for an official claim from Spanish authorities to retrieve the painting.

Pablo Picasso (center) with Fernande Olivier and Ramon Reventós in 1906, the year he painted Head of a Young Woman.<br>Photo: The Fedora Lounge

Pablo Picasso (center) with Fernande Olivier and Ramon Reventós in 1906, the year he painted Head of a Young Woman.
Photo: via The Fedora Lounge

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