Picasso Lovin’ Thieves Strike Once More

A planned art theft made by the book. One or more thieves on the second week of the year stole three paintings from the National Greek Gallery in Athens. The entire heist took about seven minutes, according to police.

One of the artworks was made by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, “Woman’s Head,” a 1930s cubist bust painting. The art had been donated by the artist himself to the Greek people in 1949, as an honorary offer for its brave resistance during the Nazi occupation, in the context of the donation of French artists’ works.

Besides Picasso’s painting, the thieves also stole Piet Mondrian’s “Mill,” a 1905 oil canvas of a riverside scene and windmill. The Dutch painter made the artwork in 1905 and had been hanging on The National Greek Gallery wall since 1963, by the donation of Alexander Pappas.

The third artwork now in the hands of the thieves is a pen-and-ink sketch of St. Diego de Alcala in ecstasy with Holy Trinity and the symbols of passion, made in the 16th century by the Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia. The work had been donated to the National Gallery by Gregory Marsalis in 1907.

The thieves got into the Museum by an ingenious plan: At the beginning of that evening, the robbers intentionally set off the gallery’s alarm system several times without entering the building. Police stated that the security staffers on duty investigated and found no disturbances. In consequence, they disabled one of the alarms. The burglars then entered through a balcony door uninterrupted!

However, their plan was compromised by one of the motion sensors in the exhibition area. It was 4:30 in the morning, local time. At that moment, one of the guards just arrived in time to see one of the suspects fleeing. If he hadn’t been there, the thieves could have also gone with another 1905 Mondrian work. The painting depicting a typical farm had been abandoned by the robbers at the guardian’s arrival!

The National Greek Gallery hadn’t made an estimation of the artworks valued yet. Furthermore, the thieves had not been apprehended as of now. Several investigations are being carried out to identify and arrest the offenders. Another investigation is being conducted by the Attica Security Division. In addition, international searches have been issued in order to trace the paintings.

This theft is only one in a long line of Picasso-related burglaries done in the last decade, and the Picasso has stolen now, “Woman’s Head,” joins a long list of Picasso’s that still remain at large. For example “The Dance,” disappeared on February 24th, 2006, from the Museu da Chacara do Ceu in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and “The Pigeon with Green Peas,” stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris last year, on May 20th, 2011.

Moreover, in 2011, art thieves destroyed a Picasso that was estimated at $100 million. The works (by Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani) that were stolen last year from a museum in Paris were thrown in the garbage and probably crushed by a rubbish truck.

Here is a list of the top 10 artists with most works stolen, Picasso leads the bunch by a considerable margin:

  1. Pablo Picasso – 1,147
  2. Nick Lawrence – 557
  3. Marc Chagall – 516
  4. Karel Appel – 505
  5. Salvador Dali – 505
  6. Joan Miro – 478
  7. David Levine – 343
  8. Andy Warhol – 343
  9. Rembrandt – 337
  10. Peter Reinicke – 336

About the Author

"In order to learn to draw you must learn to see" is the quote that inspired me to seek beauty in life, not only in art. I also may say that life is the best theme in art. I let drawing be only a hobby for me so I would never lose my passion by turning it into an every-day job. That is why I decided to write about art. Cristiana Dumitru lives in Bucharest, Romania, besides art she is also a news presenter on Radio ZU, the national Romanian radio.