Works by Pablo Picasso and Henri Rousseau have been stolen from a private villa in the south of France, in the country’s second big art robbery in less than a week. Police this weekend confirmed that some 30 works of art had been taken from the home of a private collector in the Provencal village of La Cadière d’Azur, in a haul reportedly worth at least €1m ($1.44m, £890,000).The latest raid comes just days after thieves lifted the small pastel, Les Choristes (The Choir Singers), by impressionist Edgar Degas, from the Cantini Museum in Marseilles.
A person close to the inquiry told the Financial Times that it was still too early to say whether the two thefts were linked. But the incidents highlight deep concern in France over the illegal trade in works of art. A Modigliani initially believed to be part of the haul has since been found, police in Toulon said. The villa’s French owner was holidaying in Sweden at the time of the break-in, which was discovered by the caretaker on Thursday afternoon.
Police last month uncovered a well-established and sophisticated criminal network operating at the heart of France’s respected auction house, Drouot. An auctioneer and eight commission agents, members of an elite corps from the Savoie region of south-east France, have been placed under formal investigation for organised theft.
A masterpiece by Gustave Courbet, the French realist painter, which was reported stolen in 2004, was among the treasures discovered in a police raid on Drouot warehouses and employees’ homes.
The latest theft remains shrouded in mystery, however. The owner is due to return from Sweden to take an inventory of the missing items, after which the true value of the works stolen could be established, the person close to the inquiry added.
It is believed the thieves broke into the property on Wednesday night or Thursday morning. The raid was discovered by a caretaker. A painting by Amedeo Modigliani, initially feared missing, was later found in the house, according to comments by the regional prosecutor’s office made in the Le Monde newspaper.
The investigation is being carried out by officials in nearby Marseilles, while the government’s Central Office for the Fight against Traffic in Cultural Goods is investigating the theft of the Degas painting. Les Choristes, valued at up to €800,000, is also thought to have been stolen on Wednesday – without triggering an alarm – and was discovered when the museum opened for business on Thursday.
The painting was on loan from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris for an exhibition in Marseilles which was due to close next Sunday, before travelling on to Italy and Canada. Via:[ArtKnowledgeNews]