Picasso stolen from Brazilian museum

Thu Dec 20, 2007 2:27pm EST
 
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By Mauricio Savarese

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Thieves broke into Sao Paulo's leading art museum before dawn on Thursday and stole two oil paintings, including one by Pablo Picasso that could be worth some $50 million.

Picasso's 1904 "Portrait of Suzanne Bloch" -- from the Spaniard's Blue Period -- and Brazilian painter Candido Portinari's 1939 "The Coffee Worker" were among the Art Museum of Sao Paulo's most important exhibits, the museum said in a statement.

The thieves probably specifically targeted the paintings, which were on display in separate rooms on the second floor, it said.

"We believe that this has the hand of some collector, for his private use," Marcos de Moura, who is heading the police investigation, told a news conference. "This was a professional job, nothing amateur."

Three thieves broke through the main door of the museum just after 5 a.m., then smashed another glass door while an accomplice kept watch outside, de Moura said. They spent only three minutes inside the building.

There was no alarm on either door. Security cameras filmed the break-in but not the exact moment when the paintings were lifted from the walls, he said.

None of the thieves wore a hood, he added.

The museum said it would be closed for the next few days and asked Brazil's Foreign Ministry and the international police agency Interpol for help.   Continued...

 
<p>Participants of the Sao Silvestre International Race run past the Art Museum of Sao Paulo in Sao Paulo December 31, 2006. Thieves stole two oil paintings by Pablo Picasso and Brazilian painter Candido Portinari from the museum on Thursday, a spokeswoman said. REUTERS/Caetano Barreira</p>