Picasso drawings stolen from Paris museum

10th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Pablo Picasso sketchbook valued at EUR eight million was stolen from a Paris museum.

Paris – A sketchbook of 32 drawings by Pablo Picasso valued at EUR eight million (USD 11 million) has been stolen from a Paris museum, police said Tuesday.

Thieves seized the sketchbook from an unlocked glass case at the National Picasso Museum in central Paris where officials discovered it missing on Tuesday morning.

Police said there were no signs of a break-in nor was the alarm set off at the Picasso museum, which houses more than 250 paintings, 160 sculptures and 1,500 drawings by the Spanish artist.

A police source said the theft took place sometime between Monday night and early Tuesday and described security at the museum housed in a 17th-century mansion as lax.

The sketchbook was stolen from a first-floor exhibition room at the museum located in Paris's fashionable Marais district.

The museum was closed to the public on Tuesday when the theft was discovered although some guests had been invited for a private viewing.

The French culture ministry said the 33 crayon drawings dated from 1917 to 1924 and were contained in a medium-sized sketchbook with a red cover marked with the inscription "Album" in gold colour.

It suggested that the theft may have been a professional job.

"It was kept in a closed glass casing that could only have been opened using special tools," a ministry statement said.

A temporary exhibition by French artist Daniel Buren featuring a large mirror hanging from several rooms at the Picasso museum may have also weakened security, according to investigators.

The huge work may have hindered surveillance of the collection at the museum which has also been undergoing renovation over the past months.

The entire museum is set to close in the coming months to allow for major work on the building intended to double the exhibition space.

An official from the French police force specialised in art theft that has been tasked with the investigation, told AFP that the drawings could easily be sold on the market for EUR several million.

"They can find a buyer," he said.

Works by Picasso, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, fetch record prices at auctions and are a favourite target of art thieves.

Two Picasso paintings worth an estimated EUR 50 million were taken from the Paris home of Diana Widmaier-Picasso, the artist's granddaughter, in February 2007.

Four Picasso works stolen from a musem in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June 2008 were recovered undamaged a few weeks later.

Born in Malaga, the Spanish painter lived many years in Paris and died in 1973 in the French Riviera village of Mougins.

Picasso's family donated the collection -- including several self-portraits and paintings inspired by his marriage to Jaqueline Roque -- to the state museum housed in the Hotel Sale to settle the taxes on his estate.

AFP / Expatica

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