Dutch art detective 'recovers £21m Picasso painting' 20 years after it was stolen in France

Arthur Brand says he was passed in confidence the 1938 Buste de Femme

Clémence Michallon
New York
Wednesday 27 March 2019 16:39
Dutch art detective Arthur Brand is pictured with 'Buste de Femme', a Picasso painting he says he has recovered, 20 years after it was stolen.
Dutch art detective Arthur Brand is pictured with 'Buste de Femme', a Picasso painting he says he has recovered, 20 years after it was stolen.

A Dutch art detective says he has helped recover a stolen Pablo Picasso painting.

Arthur Brand, who has been dubbed “the Indiana Jones of the art world”, said in an interview with broadcaster RTL that he was passed in confidence the 1938 Buste de Femme, which portrays Picasso’s fellow artist and lover Dora Maar.

The painting was stolen from a private Saudi owner’s yacht in France in 1999.

“You fear that it will be fake, but when I had it in my hands, I knew right away: this is real,” Brand said.

Having received the painting in black trash bags at his house, Brand said he contacted police and handed it to an insurance company for possible return to its owner.

“I had it hanging in my house for one night,” he said, estimating its value at €​25m euros ($28m and £21m). “That was exciting ... It’s fantastic, so unbelievably beautiful.”

Brand said he had first heard the painting was in the Netherlands in 2015. He told the broadcaster he believes it may have been traded back and forth “20 times” in the Amsterdam underworld, used as collateral in drugs and weapons deals.

He said the final owner was a real estate agent who wanted to be rid of it after he realised it was stolen. Brand said two men contacted him and arranged the drop-off at his house.

Dutch police told local media they were not taking further action, as the painting has been returned and the statute of limitations in the 1999 theft has expired.

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The owner, identified as Saudi businessman Abdulmohsen Abdulmalik Al al-Sheikh, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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