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Picasso artwork – stolen or gifts?

 In Art News Links, Artists & Special Collections, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso sketch horse

A sketch of a horse by Picasso found among 271 works in the possession of the artist’s handyman. Photo by the Associated Press, courtesy of The Guardian.

In a delayed verdict, Pablo Picasso’s former handyman and his wife have been ordered to return 271 “lost” works of art and are facing a two-year sentence.

BBC News reports that Pierre Le Guennec, 75, and his wife, Danielle, of Cote d’Azur were ordered on March 20 to return an estimated $65 million in works of art by Picasso that they claim were given to them as thanks for doing odd jobs for the estate.

Le Guennec told the court that Jacqueline, Picasso’s last wife, had given him a box containing the artwork in the early 1970s. The collection contained lithographs, portraits, a watercolor and sketches the Cubist created from 1900 to 1932.

“Picasso had total confidence in me,” Le Guennec said during his trial. “Maybe it was my discretion.”

According to The Guardian, Danielle Le Guennec gave a different account of how they received the artwork, saying her husband came home with a garbage bag full of paper that Picasso had given him.

The artwork was stored in the couple’s garage until 2010 when Le Guennec took the art to Paris to have it authenticated. Upon learning about the artwork, the Picasso heirs filed a complaint, and a raid of the couple’s garage revealed 271 works. The find is considered the most significant Picasso art discovery since his death in 1973.

Lawyers representing the Picasso family claimed that the couple was a front for international art thieves. According to The Guardian:

The Picasso family dismissed as utterly ridiculous the notion that the painter, although often generous, would ever have given away such an enormous range of work and without signing or dating it.

The value of the collection has yet to be determined, but is estimated to be 60 million euros. The judge convicted the couple of possessing stolen goods and gave them two-year jail sentences. The couple’s lawyer may appeal the verdict.

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