Museum Security Network

Picasso Theft: Portrait of Suzanne Bloch

Pablo Picasso, “Portrait of Suzanne Bloch”, 1904
Candido Portinari, “The Coffee Worker”, 1939

Thieves steal two valuable paintings from Sao Paulo Museum in a dawn raid on 20 December 2007

In the early hours of the 20December 2007 thieves broke into the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in Brazil, using only a crow bar and a car jack, and stole two works of art by Pablo Picasso and Brazil’s Candido Portinari. The two paintings have not been valued but Picasso’s “Portrait of Suzanne Bloch” (1904) is thought to be worth up to 50 million U.S. dollars and Portinari’s “The Coffee Worker” (1939) is estimated to be worth at least 5 million U.S. dollars. The theft took place between 5:09am and 5:12am, and was caught on surveillance cameras. It was the first successful heist since the museum opened 60 years ago. The thieves ignored works by Matisse, Renoir and Van Gogh hanging nearby.Hugo Gorst-Williams, from the Art Loss Register’s London Office commented: “While this theft was clearly well organised, the thieves will not be able to sell these paintings on the open market. The possible motivations for the theft may be naïve greed by the thieves or so-called ‘trophy theft’ by which they seek to climb up the criminal ladder by associating themselves with a high profile crime.  As for the potential recovery of these paintings- they may well turn up in the very near future as police invest resources in to such high-value and much publicised cases and thieves realise the impossibility of selling them on the market. If they do not come to light soon, it is possible that they will slip into the shady sphere of organised crime and take up a token value as collateral in dealings between criminal gangs.  Certainly, I would be hesitant to label this as a ‘stolen-to-order’ case. The conception of a ‘Mr. Big’ commissioning thefts of artworks to hang on the walls of their lairs has very little foundation in reality.” The Art Loss Register (ALR) has recorded the Sao Paulo theft on its database of stolen and missing works of art. Picasso’s “Portrait of Suzanne Bloch” joins over 550 missing or stolen works by the artist which have already been registered on the ALR database. In the past the ALR have helped to recover numerous paintings by Picasso, including “Femme en Blanc” which was stolen whilst on consignment with a Jewish art dealer in Paris during World War Two.

The ALR identified this picture when it was offered for sale by a private collector from Chicago. A financial settlement was agreed between the two parties.  Other stolen artworks by Picasso include a sculpture and five paintings from the MOMA in New York in 1993, a painting stolen from the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester in 2003 and another taken from an art gallery in Monaco in 2006. The latter two have since been recovered. Around a quarter of ALR’s recoveries have come within a year of theft, with the average time between loss and identification about four years for ALR’s recovered cases.  

In addition to the Sao Paulo Picasso and Portinari there are numerous items registered with the ALR which were stolen or reported missing from Brazil including 17th Century Dutch paintings, items of silverware, church furniture, a French horn and even a priceless Brazilian Akangatar feathered headdress. The Art Loss Register (ALR) is the world’s largest private international database of lost and stolen art, antiques and collectibles that provides recovery and search services to private individuals, collectors, the art trade, insurers and law enforcement through technology and a professionally trained staff of art historians. 

The ALR was formed in 1991 through a partnership between leading auction houses and art trade associations, the insurance industry and the International Foundation of Art Research.  Since that time, the ALR have been responsible for and involved in the recovery of over 1,000 works of art worth around £100,000,000. With over 170,000 items on its database of lost and stolen art and antiques, and undertaking around 300,000 searches a year of this database, the ALR are recognised as an integral part both of art recovery and also of museums and the art trade undertaking their necessary due diligence. The ALR is, however, far more than a database company. Their expertise in the field of art crime, logistics, inventories and title negotiations are second to none.  

If you have any information regarding this theft please contact:   New York Office  The Art Loss Register108 West 39th Street, Suite 506

New York, New York 10018Tel: (212) 297-0941Fax: (212) 354-9020Toll Free: (877)

ART-LOSSEmail: info@alrny.com 

London OfficeThe Art Loss RegisterFirst Floor63-66 Hatton GardenLondonTel: +44 (0)20 7841 5780Fax: +44 (0)20 7841 5781Email:artloss@artloss.com 

Cologne OfficeArt Loss Register GmbHObenmarspforten 7 – 11D-50667 KoelnTel:  00 49 221 257 6996Fax:  00 49 221 257 6995

Email:  ulli.seegers@artloss.com 

Amsterdam Office

The Art Loss RegisterJoop Geesinkweg 9991096 AZ AmsterdamTel:  0049 221 257 6996Fax:  0049 221 257 6995

Email:  victorine.stille@artloss.com

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: