Couple Convicted in Picasso Theft

GRASSE, FRANCE -- A retired electrician and his wife have been convicted of concealing 271 stolen artworks by Pablo Picasso worth up to $100 million.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social media network are gratified by the court's decision to prosecute art theft.

The couple was ordered to return the stolen works to the artist’s family. The verdict was made yesterday in Grasse in the South of France.

The couple claimed Picasso had given them the art treasure trove before he died in 1973, as a present. The works will now be returned to the Picasso family.

The case centers around hundreds of works of art, that were undocumented. The court concluded that the work was unlawfully removed from the Master’s studio in the 1970s.

The mystery began when Claude Picasso, son of the artist and head of the foundation bearing his name, received a letter from a man who said he owned original Picasso pieces and wanted to have them verified for authenticity.

Claude Picasso convinced the man to bring the collection to Paris, saying he would not be unable to verify it from photographs.

The man arrived by car with the paintings in a suitcase and laid them out on a table.“I felt a great surprise, naturally, lots of emotion at the discovery of pieces with which we were not familiar. But also a deep disturbance,” he told French Daily Liberation. Many of these pieces were not dated, which means they never should have left the studio.”

The cache, dating from the artist's most creative period from 1900 to 1932, includes previously undocumented sketches, plus nine Cubist collages.

The couple had kept them stored in a garage for decades and were only caught when they tried to get them authenticated by the Picasso estate. The hoard included lithographs, portraits, watercolors and sketches, that were created between 1900 and 1932.

"Picasso had total confidence in me," Le Guennec, the electrician, said during his trial. "Maybe it was my discretion.” He said that Picasso's wife Jacqueline had given him a box with 271 works inside, saying "This is for you.” The now-convicted thief had claimed that the elder Picasso had given his full consent.

The estate argued that works of this nature would never have been gifted by the artist, due to their academic nature.

None of the pieces were dedicated to Le Geunnec, a trademark of the artist’s manner of signing his work when presenting it as a gift. The former security system installer, once worked for Picasso, in his compound on the French Riviera.

Prosecutors had called for Pierre Le Guennec, 75, and his wife Danielle to receive a five-year suspended jail sentence, but this was denied and a two year suspended sentence ordered.