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Stolen Picasso and Mondrian Paintings Recovered by Greek Police

Pablo Picasso
Two paintings by Picasso–pictured above–and Mondrian that were stolen from Greece’s National Gallery were found by police. Credit: Paolo Monti, CC BY S-A 4.0

Two stolen paintings by Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian have finally been found by Greek police. Nearly ten years ago, on January 9, 2012, a group of criminals were able to infiltrate the Greek National Gallery and steal two oil paintings by Mondrian and Picasso. Greek police have now reportedly found the two paintings, the first break in the nine years since the theft took place.

Police have not yet made any arrests or released how and where the paintings were recovered. The burglary was pre-meditated and deftly executed, lasting less than ten minutes. The burglars went into the museum the night before the theft and set off the alarm system, causing the museum’s security team to disable one of the alarms.

Along with the Mondrian and Picasso works that were recovered today, the thieves took another piece– a drawing by the Italian 16th-century painter Guglielmo Caccia. As they attempted to steal a fourth painting–another Mondrian–the guards approached them and they dropped it in order to make their escape.

Stolen Picasso and Mondrian paintings were important assets of Greece’s art collection

The Picasso painting stolen in the theft was a 1939 female bust, “Woman’s Head” rendered in his distinctive, signature cubist style that went on to define a movement of 20th century art-making. The piece was gifted to Greece by Picasso himself in 1949 “in homage to the Greek people” to show respect for the Greek resistance to the Nazi occupation during World War II.

Stolen Picasso painting in Greece
A detail of the 1939 stolen female bust painting by Pablo Picasso. Photo: Greek Police handout

The other painting recovered was Dutch painter Mondrian’s 1905 painting, “Mill,” which is a representational painting of a windmill that precedes the more well known, geometric abstraction in his body of later work.

The National Gallery is Greece‘s foremost art institution. Featuring mainly works from or related to Greece dating from the 14th to the 20th centuries, the halls of the National Gallery of Greece provide a complete image of the development of not only Greek art but also of Greek history.

The museum boasts a collection over 20,000 priceless works of art, including paintings, drawings, and sculptures, and was founded in 1878.

The National Gallery of Greece started out with just 117 works of art

At its nascent stage, the National Gallery housed just 117 works of art, until well-known jurist and art collector Alexandros Soutzos donated his massive collection of paintings and sculptures to the Greek government upon his death in 1896.

The acquisition of Soutzos’ many works helped Greece transform its National Gallery into an art museum worthy of the European capital.

By 1900, the National Gallery of Greece, also called the Alexandros Soutzos Museum, for its benefactor, had established itself as a worth repository for the great works of art produced in Greece throughout the country’s post-Byzantine history.

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