Saturday 20 January 2018

Handyman stole 407 Picasso paintings, says step-daughter

Fiona Govan Madrid

MORE than 400 artworks by Pablo Picasso have been stolen from the home of his stepdaughter, she has claimed, in what appears to be one of the most audacious art thefts of recent times.

Catherine Hutin-Blay, the only daughter of the painter's second wife Jacqueline, believes that as many as 407 works by the Spanish artist were stolen from her home over many months by a former handyman.

The thefts, which she suspects took place between 2005 and 2007, only came to light two years ago when one of the pieces was recognised after it was offered for sale by a Paris gallery.

Ms Hutin-Blay (65) inherited a vast collection of Picasso's work on the death of her mother in 1986 and still owns the Chateau de Vauvenargues near Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, which Picasso bought in 1958 and where he and his second wife are buried.

The works that Ms Hutin-Blay claims were stolen have been conservatively valued collectively at between €1m and €2m. The works were stored meticulously in filing cabinets. The Picasso Administration, which is run by the artist's heirs including his son Claude Picasso, contacted Ms Hutin-Blay to see if she had sold some of the works after identifying them in a Paris gallery.

"I went to the filing cabinet to check that the artworks were still there and they were no longer there," Ms Hutin-Blay told the French newspaper Le Parisien. "That is what triggered everything."

It emerged that pieces had also been stolen from Ms Hutin-Blay's neighbour in Vauvenargues, Sylvie Baltazart-Eon, the daughter of Picasso's art dealer Aime Maeght.

Police believe as many as 600 artworks were stolen from the two properties.

It was unclear whether any arrests have been made, but a police investigation is continuing.

So far, 22 of the works have been recovered. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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