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‘I burned stolen Picasso’: Thief’s mum

A painting by Pablo Picasso that was stolen from a Dutch art gallery in October of last year has allegedly been burned to a crisp by the mother of one of the thieves.

'I burned stolen Picasso': Thief's mum
Picasso painted the stolen El Loco (cabeza de arlequín), or the madman (harlequin head), in 1971, two years prior to his death at the age of 91. Photo: Valérie Hache/AFP

Investigators in Romania have found the remains of paint, canvas and nails in the oven of a woman whose son has been charged with stealing artworks by Picasso, Monet, Matisse and other renowned artists in a haul worth between €100 million ($130 million) and €200 million.

According to the BBC, Olga Dogaru admitted last week to torching the paintings to “destroy evidence” and prevent police from pointing the finger at her son.

Mrs Dogaru also reportedly claimed to have hidden the artwork in an abandoned house, as well as in a cemetery in the Romanian village of Carcaliu.

She said she dug them up and then incinerated them after police began searching her village.

"I placed the suitcase containing the paintings in the stove,” she told Romanian Mediafax news agency.

Her son is one of six Romanians who have been charged with involvement in what was the biggest art theft in Holland since 20 works disappeared from Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum in 1991.

According to Mrs Dogaru, the group struggled to find a buyer after the Russian mafia and a Romanian fashion designer turned down the paintings.

As for the stolen painting by Picasso, it was not one of his most famous works.

He painted El Loco (cabeza de arlequín), or The Madman (harlequin head), in 1971, two years prior to his death at the age of 91.

It was one of several paintings of harlequins the Malaga artist painted during his lifetime, probably influenced by his close relationship with circus people during his time in France as a young man.

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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