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Picasso's Electrician Convicted for Stealing Stash of 271 Rare Artworks Found in His Garage

The Le Guennecs initially claimed Pablo Picasso had 'gifted' them the collection of unsigned artworks worth an estimated $70-98 billion for their loyal service.

News18.com

Updated:November 25, 2019, 12:38 PM IST
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Picasso's Electrician Convicted for Stealing Stash of 271 Rare Artworks Found in His Garage
Pablo Picasso's former electrician Pierre Le Guennec (left) (AFP) | Pablo Picasso (right) (File Photo)

After nine years, the case against artist Pablo Picasso's electrician may finally have come to a close after a French court upheld its previous jail sentence for Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle for hoarding a valuable portion of the artist's artworks.

The nearly decade-long legal debacle began in 2010 when Le Guennec, Picasso's former handyman, attempted to authenticate a stash of the Spanish painter's works that had been stashed in his garage. The collection included a total of 271 works including 28 lithographs, six oil on canvas works, and drawings and rare cubist collages made by the surrealist between 1900 and 1930. The stash also contains an artwork from his celebrated "Blue Period". The entire collection is worth an estimated $74 million to $98 million.

Picasso, who spent a majority of life in France, employed Le Guennec, 80, for running errands and performing odd-jobs sometime during the 1970s when he had been living at his villa in Mougins. Le Guennec and Danielle, 76, claimed that artworks had been "gifted" to them by the artist himself.

The stash was confiscated from the Le Guennec's possession after the they approached Picasso's son and manager of the Picasso Administration, Claude Picasso, to authenticate the works. Picasso did deem the collection authentic but also suspected theft.

The Le Guennec's denied theft, initially claiming that it was Picasso who left them the stash of unsigned artworks to reward the couple's devoted service. Later, the couple claimed it was Picasso's widow Jacqueline who asked to hide the artists's works after his death om 1973. they claimed that Jacqueline had left them with garbage bags full of unsigned artworks, all of whom she took away except one. They also claimed that the widow left the bag in their keeping, allegedly to conceal them from Claude, her stepson.

However, after several appeals, the couple have been fund guilty of theft after the Picasso family successfully pleaded that the artist never gave away artworks for free. They have been sentenced to two years of suspended jail terms, meaning the couple can stay out of prison as long as they follow the rules and protocols.

Daughter of Jacqueline Picasso, Catherine Hutin, told the media that she was happy with the verdict as it finally restored that slander that had been caused to her mother's name by the Le Guennecs.

The couple had first been convicted in 2015 and the conviction was upheld by a higher court. However, in 2016 they managed to convince Cour de Cassation in France, one of the four "last resort" courts in the country, to allow them a retrial.

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