2 paintings by Picasso stolen from kin's home

Paris police estimate value at $66 million

March 01, 2007|By New York Times News Service

PARIS -- Two important paintings by Pablo Picasso estimated by police to be worth a total of about $66 million have been stolen from the Left Bank home of his granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso, the authorities said yesterday.

Paris police officials said the two oils - Maya With Doll from 1938 and Portrait of Jacqueline from 1961 - were taken from Widmaier-Picasso's house on the Rue de Grenelle in the city's chic Seventh Arrondissement sometime between Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Police said that two drawings, one by Picasso, were also stolen, but this could not be confirmed by the Picasso family lawyer, Celine Astolfe.

In a telephone interview, Astolfe said that Widmaier-Picasso and her mother, Maya, the daughter of Picasso's longtime mistress Marie-Therese Walter, were asleep in the house when the theft occurred.

"They heard a noise, went downstairs and saw nothing," Astolfe said. "They went to bed, and the following morning they saw that two paintings were missing."

The lawyer said the theft appeared to be the work of professionals because the home's alarms were neutralized and there were no signs of a break-in. "They blocked the alarm, and they had either the code or keys," she said.

Although the paintings formed part of the Picasso family's private collection, they are nonetheless well-known and, art experts said, would be difficult to sell on the open market. Astolfe said their value might exceed the police estimate.

Maya With Doll is a colorful Cubist portrait of Picasso's daughter as a child clutching a doll, while Portrait of Jacqueline is a black, gray and white Cubist oil of Jacqueline Roque, Picasso's second wife, whom he married in 1961.

Thefts of works by Picasso have become relatively common, not least because he was so prolific. London's Art Loss Register lists 444 missing Picassos in its database, including paintings, lithographs, drawings and ceramics. There is also an active industry making and selling fake Picassos.

The artist's descendants have had artwork stolen before. One famous theft involved pieces worth about $17 million, taken from the Cannes home of Marina Picasso, another of his granddaughters, in 1989. Those were later recovered. Seven Picasso oils stolen from a gallery in Zurich in 1994 have yet to be found.

Like other members of the family, they are active in studying and overseeing the artist's legacy. Maya Widmaier-Picasso is often called on to verify questionable works attributed to Picasso, while her daughter, an art historian, recently published an illustrated book of Picasso's erotic works called Art Can Only Be Erotic.

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