A 49-year-old construction worker and self-professed art lover has admitted stealing works by Piet Mondrian and Pablo Picasso from Greece’s National Gallery in January 2012, police said late Monday.
Minister of Culture Lina Mendoni Tuesday hailed the recovery of the two works. “Today is a very special day, full of joy and emotion,” she told a press conference with Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis in Athens, in reference to the recovery of Picasso’s 1934 work “Head of a Woman” and Mondrian’s “Stammer Windmill with Summer House” (1905).
The thief, who claimed that he acted without accomplices, had initially stored the works in his home. But, unsettled by reports that the paintings had never left Greece, he returned from the United Kingdom where he was living and moved them to a creek east of Athens, carefully packaged inside plastic bags. The suspect, who was arrested last Monday, claimed to have stolen the works to keep them.
Mendoni said “Head of a Woman” would have been “impossible to sell or be exhibited” as it was donated to Greece in recognition of its resistance to Nazi Germany in World War II and bears an inscription in French on the back reading “For the Greek people, a tribute by Picasso.”