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Picasso masterpieces stolen in Paris

Paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Modigliani and Leger stolen from Paris Museum of Modern Art

Five paintings worth €500m (£430m) – including masterpieces by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse – have been stolen from a Paris museum, French police said today.

A police spokesman said works by Picasso, Matisse, George Braque, Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Léger were reported missing early this morning from the Paris Museum of Modern Art.

The pictures are: Le Pigeon aux Petits Pois by Picasso; La Pastorale by Matisse; L'Olivier Près de l'Estaque by Braque; La Femme a l'Eventail by Modigliani, and Nature Morte aux Chandeliers by Léger.

The burglary was discovered just before 7am. A window had been broken and the padlock of a grille giving access to the museum was smashed. CCTV footage showed a person climbing in through a window.

Police and investigators have cordoned off the museum, which is in the 16th arrondisement, across the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower.

Le Monde reported that the paintings were so well-known that it would be difficult to sell them on the open market. Previous thefts have involved paintings being stolen to order on behalf of private collectors.

A member of staff at the museum said questions about the theft would only be answered by the office of the Paris mayor, Bertrand Delanoe.

The theft is being investigated by the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme, France's elite police armed robbery unit.

Last December, thieves stole a pastel by Edgar Degas worth €800,000 from an exhibition in Marseille. The work, Les Choristes (The Chorus), was discovered to be missing from the Musée Cantini by a security guard when he opened up. The work, on loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris for the exhibition, had been stolen overnight.


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