The man and woman accused of selling a stolen Henri Matisse painting on Miami's black market have pled guilty.
Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman of Miami and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo of Mexico City admitted selling the legendary artist's 1925 painting "Odalisque in Red Pants" to FBI agents during a sting on South Beach in July.
The pair acknowledged they knew the $3 million painting had been stolen before making a deal to sell it to an undercover officer for $740,000 at the oceanfront Loew's Hotel, prosecutors had alleged. Once the price was agreed upon, Ornelas carried the painting in a red tube from Mexico through Miami International Airport before she and Marcuello met the undercover agents to transfer possession.
The pair were arrested after the sale was made, bringing an end of sorts to one of the most baffling capers in the art world. The painting has been missing from Venezuela's Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum since at least 2002, having famously been swapped for a fake that went unnoticed for what some speculate may have been years.
The details of its theft remain a mystery despite intense work from Interpol, the FBI, and police in France and Spain, and the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports Guzman and Lazo said in court that they were told museum employees hung the forgery in place of the original (see the real and fake versions of "Odalisque" above).
Despite its recovery, the painting has not been given back Venezuela. In August, over a dozen topless women donning only red pants congregated in front of the museum in Caracas to demand its return as Venezuelan attorney general Luisa Ortega's attempts to reach US officials have reportedly gone unrecognized, according to the Guardian.
BBC News reports Guzman faces 10 years in prison for conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, while Lazo faces five years. The pair are scheduled to be sentenced in January in Miami federal court.
The United States: February 1988
18 paintings including two by Fra Angelico, were stolen from New York art dealer Colnaghi's. The thieves broke in through a skylight, a manourve that could have gone very wrong, sending the thieves flying down the stairwell. Once inside, the thieves trod on canvases and failed to choose the most valuable paintings, but still made off with enough to be worth $6 million. Only 14 of the works were recovered. PICTURE: <a href="Credit: Fra Angelico [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons" target="_hplink">Wikimedia </a>
Mexico: December 1985
140 objects, including Maya and Aztec Gold, Mixtec and Zapotec sculptures, were stolen from Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology on Christmas Eve 1985. The alarms had not been working for three years, thieves simply removed the glass from the cases. PICTURE: <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aztec_ear_flares,_Art_Institute.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia</a>
The United Kingdom 2003
Not all art thieves are financially motivated. Thieves who stole Van Gogh's The Fortification of Paris with Houses, Picasso's Poverty and Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape from the Whitworth gallery in Manchester hid the works behind a public toilet. A note pinned to the tube said they stole the paintings to highlight security gaps at the gallery. How public spirited of them. IMAGE: <a href="http://uploads4.wikipaintings.org/images/vincent-van-gogh/fortifications-of-paris-with-houses-1887(1).jpg!Large.jpg < wikipaintings" target="_hplink">Wikipaintings</a>
The United Kingdom: August 1961
A rich American collector, Charles Wrightsman, bought Goya's Portrait of the Duke of Wellington and planned to take it to America with him. Due to public outrage, the government matched the sum ($392,000) and it was hung in the National Gallery. It was stolen three weeks later, and the thief demanded a ransom, which was not granted. The Duke was later deposited in the left-luggage office of New Street station in Birmingham. A 61-year-old retired truck driver confessed to the theft. IMAGE:<a href="Credit: Francisco de Goya [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons" target="_hplink"> Wikimedia Commons</a> <strong>UPDATE:</strong> A previous version of this slide incorrectly stated that the artwork was still at large, when in fact the painting has been restored. We apologize for the error.
The United Kingdom, 2003
Thieves overpowered the guide and chucked the painting the Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo Da Vinci out of the window, telling tourists "Don't worry love, we're the police. This is just practice". The painting was found at the offices of one of Scotland's most successful law firms. Several solicitors were arrested, some of whom were said to be scrutinizing a contract which would have allowed 'legal repatriation' of the painting. The painting was recovered and returned to the Buccleugh family. IMAGE: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Leonardo_da_vinci,_madonna_dei_fusi_di_Drumlarimng_castle,_lost.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikipedia</a>
A masked thief dressed in black stole five paintings from Paris's Musee d'Art Moderne, including Pablo Picasso's Le Pigeon aux Petits-Pois and La Pastorale by Henri Matisse. Collectively the paintings are worth about €100m. The CCTV system had failed, the intruder had trigged no alarms and the night watchmen hadn't noticed the break in until it was too late. The CCTV had been reported as broken, but hadn't been fixed adequately. IMAGE:<a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/63/Picasso_-_Le_pigeon_aux_petits_pois_1911.jpg" target="_hplink"> Wikimedia Commons</a>
Sweden: December 2000
Thieves seized a Rembrandt self portrait and two Renoir paintings from the National Museum in Stockholm. One thief threatened an unarmed guard with a submachine gun while the other two grabbed paintings. They scattered nails on the floor to slow down pursuit and got away on a motorboat. The thieves went on to request $10 million per painting in ransoms through a lawyer who was then arrested in connection with the robbery. The paintings are still missing. IMAGE: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Rembrant_Self-Portrait,_1660.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikipedia</a>
The United States: March 1990
Thieves made off with $300 million worth of art works, including The Concert by Vermeer and works by Rembrandt and Manet. Two men in police uniforms turned up at Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner museum claiming to be responding to a disturbance. Once let in, guards were handcuffed and locked in a cellar while the thieves went to work. Attempts to recover the paintings - for a $5 million reward - failed.
The most audacious art theft of all time, Vincenzo Peruggia, an employee of the Lourve, walked out of work one day with the Mona Lisa under his coat. The theft remained undiscovered for most of the next day, as workers thought it was being photographed. Peruggia believed the Italian painting should be in Italy, and two years later tried to sell it to the Uffizi in Florence. IMAGE: PA
Oslo, Norway: August 2004
The Scream is one of the most stolen paintings of all time, made worse because there are four different versions. Most recently, it was stolen from the Munch museum in Oslo, where it was uninsured because curators felt the painting was 'priceless'. There were no demands for ransom but the painting was recovered 2 years later. IMAGE: PA