Paris master thief steals $635m art

At least one thief carried out the biggest known robbery of a Paris museum and fled with five paintings by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and other major names, worth $635 million, officials said on Thursday.

The canvases were discovered missing just before the Musee d’Art Moderne was to open, a judicial source and others familiar with the investigation said. A broken window and a sheared-off padlock suggested that the heist took place overnight Wednesday.
Video surveillance cameras recorded one person entering the museum through a window. It was unclear if more thieves were involved. The museum was kept closed for the investigation. Besides the Matisse and the Picasso, works by Georges Braque, Ferdinand Leger and Amedeo Modigliani were also plucked from the walls of the city-run museum, one of the most-visited in the French capital. Their estimated total value was put at 500 million euros.
The stolen paintings included Picasso’s cubist Dove with Green Peas, which the Spanish artist created in 1912, and his French contemporary Matisse’s Pastoral from 1905.
The others were Braque’s Olive Tree near Estaque, Modigliani’s Woman with a Fan and Leger’s Still Life with Candlestick, according to the website of Le Parisien newspaper.
France has seen a growing number of art thefts in recent months. In January, about 30 paintings — including some by Picasso and Henri Rousseau — were stolen from a private villa in the Cote d’Azur, with a total estimated value of around one million euros.
On New Year’s Eve, a pastel by Edgar Degas disappeared from the Cantini museum in Marseille, also in the south of France.
The 1877 painting worth 800,000 euros had been lent for an exhibition by the Musee d’Orsay in Paris.
It had been unscrewed from the wall and there was no evidence of a break-in, the police said, indicating the thief or thieves knew how to get round the museum’s security system. In June 2009, the Picasso Museum in Paris was robbed in broad daylight of a book of drawings by the celebrated 20th century artist, worth an estimated three million euros.
Stolen masterpieces are rarely recovered, but three men are being tried in France for the 2007 theft of three Picassos worth more than 50 million euros from the Paris home of his grand-daughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso.
The paintings were found after a five-month investigation. Located in the posh 16th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Eiffel Tower, the Musee d’Art Moderne is home to more than 8,000 works of art.
—AFP

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