Artlyst reported last December that 271 undocumented works by Picasso estimated at a minimum of €60 million (£50 million) were discovered in the possession of Pierre Le Guennec, a retired French electrician, after he and his wife revealed that the paintings drawings and prints, a gift from the artist, had been stored in a garage for over 30 years.
The mystery began when Claude Picasso, son of the artist and head of the foundation named after his father received a letter from a man who said he owned original Picasso pieces and wanted to have them verified for authenticity. Picasso convinced the man to bring the collection to Paris, saying he would be unable to verify it from photographs.
Le Guennec arrived by car with the paintings in a suitcase and laid them out on a table.“I felt a great surprise, naturally, lots of emotion at the discovery of pieces with which we were not familiar. But also a deep disturbance,” he told French daily Liberation. “Many of these pieces were not dated, which means they never should have left the studio.” The cache, dating from the artist’s most creative period from 1900 to 1932, includes previously undocumented notebooks, sketches, plus nine Cubist collages said to be worth €40 million. (£34 million)
Pierre Le Guennec was a former security system installer, who once worked for Picasso, in his home on the French Riviera, claims that the treasure trove was a gift to him from Madam Jacqueline Picasso, with the knowledge of the master. Le Guennec and his wife were subsequnetly arrested and charged with handling stolen goods and faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the crime.
Now after a short three-day court hearing, the prosecutor in the case against Le Guennec and his wife Danielle, has demanded a five-year suspended prison sentence for the septuagenarian couple, Le Dauphine reports.
The verdict against the Le Guennecs, who stand accused of handling stolen goods, will be announced by the judge on March 20.
For 37 years, the couple kept in their garage the stolen artworks by Picasso, including six oils on canvas, 28 lithographs, and some rare cubist collages and sketchbooks, but the couple have always maintained that Picasso gave them the works as a present – but the Picasso Estate, led by Claude, one of the artist’s sons, has dismissed the Le Guennecs’ story as “ridiculous.”
“We are dealing with a very particular offence, one which has been detrimental to humanity,” said public prosecutor Laurent Robert during the trial. Robert said he was sure that the works had been stolen. “The amount of works is incompatible with any notion of gift,” he said, stressing that the elderly couple had harmed the “trust” and “memory” of Picasso.
Yet the public prosecutor has asked for a “balanced” sentence for the defendants, describing them as overwhelmed by the events. He also pointed out that the Le Guennecs had not made any money from their actions. “One can be an honest person in life, and still make a mistake,” Robert conceded.