A painting by Pablo Picasso, given to Greece by the artist himself, was stolen in a predawn heist at the country?s biggest state art gallery Monday, along with two other works of art.
?Woman?s Head,? a 1939 cubist bust, was donated to the country in 1949 in recognition of the Greeks? resistance to the Nazi occupation during the Second World War.
The robbers, whose number is not yet known, also took a 1905 oil painting of a riverside windmill by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian -- more famous for his later color block paintings -- and a drawing by Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia. The thieves dropped a fourth work, also by Mondrian, as they fled the scene.
The estimated value of the stolen artworks has not been made known. Recent international auctions have put similar Picasso?s between 4 and 6 million euros.
Reports Monday said the robbery took place before 5 a.m. ?It all happened in seven minutes,? an unnamed police officer was quoted as saying.
The thieves broke into the gallery through a balcony door on the mezzanine level. They first deliberately set off various alarms without actually entering the building. A guard deactivated at least one of the alarms after inspecting the area, which allowed the robbers to get inside. A thief later triggered a motion detector, but had enough time to escape.
The heist occurred just after the gallery had wrapped up its ?Unknown Treasures? exhibition, which included works by Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt. The site will soon close for two years for renovation works.
Such famous works are extremely difficult to sell. Police sources speculate that the thieves were operating on behalf of a wealthy collector, or that they could ask for ransom money in the coming weeks.