A Pablo Picasso painting stolen nine years ago during a museum heist in Athens has been recovered.
Greek police officials recovered works by both Picasso and Piet Mondrian that were taken in a brazen overnight burglary in 2012 at the National Art Gallery. During a press conference to display the recovered artwork, officers allowed the painting to slip to the floor.
It had long been assumed that both works had been trafficked out of the country and entered the dark world of illegal art sales.
But thinking changed in February with an anonymous tip that the paintings remained in Greece, after the thieves had failed to find a buyer for such famous works of art, according to ArtNews. After learning that the paintings had failed to sell for 20 million euros in an illegal deal in Athens, police began to close in on the two paintings, which were located Monday night, carefully hidden and wrapped in plastic sheeting in a gorge in the rural area of Keratea, in Greece’s eastern Attica region.
Despite arresting and convicting two Albanian men for the heist in 2014, police now claim that the entire heist was masterminded by a 49-year old Greek construction worker, who is currently in custody. The heist itself was noted for taking less than seven minutes, although a security guard disrupted the thief’s escape, which allowed the recovery of a fourth painting.
A damaged pen and ink drawing of a religious scene by Italian 16th century painter Guglielmo Caccia had been recovered in 2012, but the two major works remained missing until Monday night.
“Head of a Woman,” was gifted to the city of Athens by Picasso in 1949 as tribute to the city’s fierce resistance to Nazi invasion during the Second World War and is considered nearly impossible to sell due to its fame for being gifted directly to the city itself. Also recovered was a lesser known representational oil painting of a riverside windmill by Mondrian from 1905.