Clumsy DROP Greek police stole Picasso’s masterpiece from the floor after propping it to one side while revealing the salvaged painting to media
- The painting fell to the ground before being timidly replaced by a policeman
- “Head of a Woman”, offered by Pablo Picasso to Greece in 1949, was stolen in 2012
- It was recovered from a ravine in Keratea, 45 km southeast of Athens, nine years after it was stolen
- Culture Minister Lina Mendoni criticized the accident but said the paintings “appeared to be in good condition”
A stolen Picasso painting fell to the ground while on display to Greek police yesterday after being found in a ravine.
The work, titled Head of a Woman, was stolen in an art theft from the National Gallery of Greece in 2012, but was recovered from a ditch in a forest just days ago.
Greek police displayed the recovered artwork, but it slipped from its position atop an unstable shelf, risking considerable damage.
An officer was forced to pick up the painting and sheepishly put it back on the shelf.
A 49-year-old man who is believed to have lived between Greece and England has now been arrested and has subsequently confessed to the burglary.
This is the defining moment a stolen Picasso painting fell to the ground while on display to Greek police after being recovered on Tuesday
The officer timidly tore the painting from the floor and nervously replaced it on the shelf next to the “Stuttering Windmill” by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, which was also found with the Picasso.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni criticized the accident on Thursday but insisted that the two paintings “appeared to be in good condition”.
The Spanish master offered the work to the Greek state in 1949 in recognition of the country’s resistance to Nazi Germany during the occupation of 1941-44.
The painting, which could have been offered on the black market for £ 15million according to law enforcement sources, was stolen along with two other high-profile pieces of art.
The words “for the Greek people, a tribute from Picasso” are inscribed on the back of the painting. It was offered by Picasso to Greece in 1949
One, a sketch by 16th-century Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia, better known as Moncalvo, was damaged in the robbery and thrown down a gallery toilet according to state television, which the suspect would have confessed.
The other, called “Stammering Mill” by the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, was also found with the Picasso.
“Today is a special day, (a day of) great joy and emotion,” Mendoni told reporters.
She said the painting would have been “impossible” to sell because it bore a personal Picasso inscription on the back – “For the Greek people, a tribute from Picasso”.
But law enforcement sources told ARTNews it was possible the work was offered for £ 15million on the black market but failed to find a buyer.
The confessed thief said he initially hid the paintings at his home, but recently hid them in a gorge in Keratea, 45 km southeast of Athens.
The 2012 heist at the National Gallery, Greece’s largest state art collection, lasted just seven minutes, but the planning behind was meticulous.
The break-in saw the lone guard distracted by alarms that went off all night until he deactivated the system.
He then went to check out part of the museum as the burglar slipped elsewhere through an unlocked balcony door.
In the short time he was inside, he was able to strip the Picasso and Stammer Windmill of their frames and escape.
It was originally believed that two men broke in, cutting paintings from their frames, but police only arrested one person, the 49-year-old Greek construction worker who has yet to be named, in connection with the case.
Pictured: Footage from a video showing the painting’s hiding place, where it was found by police wrapped up. The man moved the paintings from a warehouse in Keratea to the ravine where they were eventually discovered