Picassos Electrician Indicted for Harboring Allegedly Stolen Cache of the Masters Art – ARTINFO.com
Danielle Le Guennec
, the elderly French couple who last year attracted international attention when they produced a cache of 271 previously unknown
works that they kept in their garage for almost 40 years, have now been indicted for on suspicion of harboring stolen art.
, Le Guennec was
‘s electrician and claimed that the artist and his second wife,
, gave him the artworks as a gift. Many of the works are contained in a single notebook, but the trove also includes nine
collages and a Blue Period watercolor, and has been estimated to be worth between $86 and $115 million. As the statute of limitations on theft has expired, the couple stands accused of possession of stolen property — a charge that still requires that theft be proven.
The Le Guennecs will appear before judge Catherine Bonnici at the end of the month. Agreeing with the Picasso Administration, which manages the artist’s estate and is headed by his son Claude Picasso, the court told Europe1 and AFP that it does not believe the couple’s story of how they came into possession of the works, stating that “there are inconsistencies in their statements, and some elements appear improbable to us.” The works in question, the court stated, disappeared during the rather chaotic time after Picasso’s death and before the official inventory of his works had been drawn up.
The case still seems quite murky, and any witnesses to the matter are long since deceased (Picasso died in 1973 and Jacqueline committed suicide in 1986). According to Le Monde, a key fact in the indictment is that the Le Guennec artworks could not have been located at the villa where Picasso and his wife resided, but rather were stored at the villa called La Californie in Cannes. However, Danielle Le Guennec told Libération last fall that Jacqueline retrieved the artworks from La Californie, where Pierre installed an alarm system.
It has also been revealed that Jacqueline gave the couple 540,000 francs as a gift in 1983, according to Var Matin. This has apparently led investigators to question why she would give such a generous present in addition to offering the Le Guennecs works by Picasso. Pierre Le Guennec did not mention the monetary gift when questioned last fall.
During questioning, Le Guennec also did not mention his cousin, Maurice Bresnu, who was Picasso’s chauffeur, nicknamed “Nounours” (“Teddy Bear”). Nounours famously received from Picasso about one hundred gouaches, drawings, and pastels, as well as 26 ceramic works. Bresnu died in 1991, and his wife Danièle died in 2009 without a will. A genealogical search led to Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec being identified as among Danièle’s six heirs — meaning that they inherited still more works by Picasso. In fact, the heirs had planned to auction several of the works at Drouot in December, but the sale was postponed due to the Le Guennecs’ legal problems. Now, police have extended the investigation to include Maurice Bresnu’s collection, part of which was previously sold, according to Le Monde.
“The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fall into place,” a magistrate involved in the case told Le Monde, “even if the investigation is far from over and the couple’s guilt has not been proven.”