Italy recovers lost Picasso from retired frame maker

Fri Mar 27, 2015 11:15am EDT
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By Steve Scherer

ROME (Reuters) - Italian police have recovered a painting by Spanish master Pablo Picasso that a retired frame maker in Rome said he had been given nearly 40 years ago.

The 1912 oil painting, titled "Violin and Bottle of Bass", portrays a cubist image of a violin and a beer bottle and has an estimated value of 15 million euros ($16.2 million).

Italy's special Carabinieri police squad that tracks down stolen art took custody of the painting when a man from Rome, who was not named, sought official permission to export it to be sold at an auction.

Investigators have verified the painting's authenticity, but they are still trying to determine whether the pensioner is its rightful owner.

The man said he had been given the painting in 1978 by an elderly client as a gift, in exchange for having repaired a treasured picture frame of his client's deceased wife for no charge.

Since the frame maker did not know it was a valuable Picasso, police said, he packed it away for 36 years "without particular care" until he discovered - by chance, as he said - that it was the work of the Spanish master.

In a separate case, police recovered an ancient Roman marble sculpture of a man poised to sacrifice a bull. The statue was being transported in a flower van.

It was later discovered that raiders of Etruscan tombs north of Rome had stolen the statue, which is thought to depict the god Mithra, and were trying to smuggle it to Switzerland to sell on the black market.   Continued...

A Carabinieri paramilitary policeman stands next to a painting of Luca Carlevarijs (R) and "Violin e bouteille de bass" painting of Pablo Picasso during a news conference in Rome, in this March 27, 2015 handout picture provided by Carabineri Press Office.  REUTERS/Carabinieri Press Office/Handout via Reuters