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Picasso Hoarders Indicted For Possession Of Stolen Property

Picasso

First Posted: 06/14/11 05:41 AM ET Updated: 08/13/11 06:12 AM ET

In November, we told you about a 'treasure trove' of never-before-seen Pablo Picasso works revealed in the possession of a retired electrician.

Pierre Le Guennec, who installed alarm systems for Picasso in the last years of the Spanish painter's life, said the 271 pieces, which included collages, gouaches and lithographs, were gifts. French authorities, however, were not convinced, and have indicted Le Guennec and his wife Danielle for "concealing," France's classification for possession of stolen property.

Picasso's son Claude, who doubts Le Guennec's claims, has said that the couple's story does not match up with his father's usual gift-giving practices. Despite being extremely prolific, Picasso was not known to give away unsigned or undated works like the ones in Le Guennec's collection. Moreover, investigators say the works may have come from one of Picasso's other residences, in which Le Guennec had not worked.

Still, the Daily Mail quotes a source close to the investigation, who said: "It’s a tricky case because it’s effectively one side’s word against the other."

French newspaper Le Monde, reported the perspective of one investigator, who said: "The facts were present for almost forty years. All the contemporary witnesses are dead."

The plot thickened with the addition of a document from 1983 provided by the Picasso Administration, ten years after the supposed "gifts," which proved that Picasso's wife Jacqueline had given 540,000 francs (about 150,000 EUR today) to Le Guennec. The Le Guennecs had not disclosed this gift to investigators when it was discovered.

In addition, authorities have expanded their investigation of Le Guennec's late cousin Maurice Bresnu, Picasso's last driver, who himself had possessed over a hundred of his employer's works. Police seized several works from a recent sale of Bresnu's collection in early June. Le Monde reports that authorities have found "no link" between the cases so far, but notes the unusual connection.

A hearing for the Le Guennecs' case will likely take place in late June.

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Filed by Travis Korte  |