The ownership of an Analytic cubist painting depicting a violin with a bottle of Bass beer dating from 1912, by the Spanish born French artist Pablo Picasso, is in dispute, by the Italian police, after a framer explained that he was gifted the euro 15m/£10m cubist painting by a customer in 1978.
The man, who was a framer, explained that he was given the work of art in gratitude for helping a recently bereaved widower, who had asked him to reglaze a broken photo-frame containing a picture of his late wife. The framer did the work for no charge. He explained that the pensioner came back the next day and gave him the Picasso canvas. He also stated that he had no idea it was by the 20th century master.
In a case similar to the recent trial of Picasso’s electrician, where 240 stolen works were disputed and returned to the Picasso estate, the Italian authorities are taking no chances. If indeed the work was aquired in 1978 could this be from the same group of works?
The frame-maker recently took the 54 x 45cm oil on canvas for valuing at Sotheby’s and the police were alerted only when an export licence was in the process of being obtained that alarm bells started to ring. The estimate declared on the export form was a conservative value of 1.4 million euros.
The work appears in the 1961 edition of the Zervos, catalogue raisonne of Picasso’s work considered the authoritative source for the painter. Bass pale ale, was used on many occasions by the Cubist painter who liked the design of the red triangle on the label. It featured in over 40 of the artist’s work, mostly in his Analytic and synthetic Cubist periods. The well known English beer, was once the most popular brand globally. It was also part of the composition of the iconic ‘Bar at the Folies-Bergere’ by Edouard Manet, painted in 1882, which is in the collection of the Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House.