ARMED ROBBERY: Thieves steal Picassos, Brazilian works from Sao Paulo museum

SAO PAULO (AFP) — A gang of armed robbers stole two Picasso engravings and two Brazilian paintings from a Sao Paulo museum in a bold daylight heist, officials said.

The four works grabbed Thursday from a branch of the Pinacoteca museum in the center of the city were insured for a total of 568,400 dollars, a spokeswoman for Sao Paulo’s state secretariat for culture told AFP.

The robbery recalled a December 20 theft in the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in which another Picasso and a painting by a well-known Brazilian artist, Candido Portinari, were stolen during closing hours.

Those paintings — together valued at 56 million dollars — were recovered less than three weeks later by police, who made two arrests.

The Pablo Picasso engravings stolen Thursday were “Minotaur, Drinker and Women” (1933), and “The Painter and the Model” (1963), each insured for 4,200 dollars, the spokeswoman said.

The two Brazilian works were “Women at the Window” (1926), by Emiliano Augusto Cavalcanti de Albuquerque Melo — known better as Di Cavalcanti — and “Couple” (1919), by the Lithuanian-born Brazilian artist Lasar Segall.

“Women at the Window,” which was insured for 500,000 dollars, featured on the poster outside the museum advertising the exhibition, called “A Collector’s Eye.”

“Couple” was insured for 60,000 dollars.

The stolen works belonged to the Jose and Paulina Nemirovsky Foundation.

The robbery occurred around midday (1500 GMT) on the second floor of the museum, when three men carrying firearms and wearing masks rounded up the guards, the news website O Globo reported.

Security cameras recorded the crime.

A police unit dealing with organized crime was handling the investigation.

The director of the museums department for Brazil’s Historic Heritage and National Architecture Institute, Jose do Nascimento, said the insurance values of the stolen works did not reflect their true market value.

He declined to put a value on them, telling the website of the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that “those by Segall and Di Cavalcanti were reference works,” and “the Picasso engravings gave a universal character to Brazilian museums.”

“The value of these works is incalculable. I prefer not to give a figure,” he said.

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