Thursday, March 01, 2007
Two Paintings by Picasso Are Stolen in Paris
Pablo Picasso's "Portrait of Jacqueline," left, and "Maya with Doll."
By ALAN RIDING
The New York Times
Published: March 1, 2007
PARIS, Feb. 28 — Two important paintings by Picasso estimated by the 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 announced Wednesday.
Paris police officials said the two oils, “Maya With Doll” from 1938 and “Portrait of Jacqueline” from 1961, were taken from Ms. Widmaier-Picasso’s house on the Rue de Grenelle in the city’s chic Seventh Arrondissement sometime overnight between Monday and Tuesday.
The police said that two drawings, one by Picasso, were also stolen, but this could not be confirmed by the Picasso family lawyer, Céline Astolfe.
In a telephone interview Ms. Astolfe said that Ms. Widmaier-Picasso and her mother, Maya, the daughter of Picasso’s longtime mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, were asleep in the house when the theft occurred.
“They heard a noise, went downstairs and saw nothing,” Ms. 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. Ms. 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 artworks 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.
Neither Diana Widmaier-Picasso nor her mother could be reached on Wednesday.
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.”