75-year-old Pierre Le Guennec, Picasso’s former electrician back in the 1970s, has been given a two year (suspended) prison sentence for possessing 271 stolen, never-before-seen Picasso works which he claimed were gifts from the late artist. His wife, Danielle Le Guennec, was also convicted though the court in Grasse did not determine exactly who was responsible for the theft.
The collages, sketches, drawings, and lithographs had been stored in the Le Guennec garage in Mouans-Sartoux until 2010. When the couple brought a collection of drawings to Picasso’s son and estate representative, Claude Picasso, in Paris, The Guardian reports that:
“suspicious about the unknown works, Picasso’s heirs called police and filed a legal complaint. The couple’s garage in the town of Mouans-Sartoux was raided and a total of 271 works were found, making it the most important discovery of Picasso art since his death. The pieces, created between 1900 and 1932, included nine rare Cubist collages from the time Picasso was working with the French artist Georges Braque, work from his “blue period”, as well as intimate family pieces, including portraits of his mistress Fernande, drawings of his first wife, Olga, and a drawing of a horse for his children.”
In court Pierre Le Guennec claimed that after he had become a trusted friend of the family, Picasso’s second wife Jacqueline had one day simply presented him a box with the works enclosed. But Le Guennec’s claim was rejected by Picasso’s family who claimed the artist never gave away work without signing and dating it first.
Estimated at around €60 million (£43.5 million/$65.1 million) altogether, the works have been returned to the Picasso Administration. Catherine Hutin, Jacqueline Picasso’s daughter, is planning to donate her share of the collection to the Musée Picasso in Paris.