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The Loss of Art from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Updated on December 14, 2014
French Police investigate the 2010 Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris Heist
French Police investigate the 2010 Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris Heist

The Theft

On May 20, 2010, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris reported the overnight theft of five paintings from its collection. Shortly after 3:45 a.m. a window had been smashed and a masked individual cut The Pigeon with the Peas (1911-1912) by Pablo Picasso, Pastoral (1905) by Henri Matisse, Olive Tree near Estaque (1906) by Georges Braque, Woman with a Fan (Lunia Czechowska) (1919) by Amedeo Modigliani and Still Life with Candlestick (1922) by Fernand Léger out of their frames and left with them. Valued at $123 million, all five works were immediately entered into every international stolen art database, and INTERPOL began circulating pictures.

Braque, "Olive Tree near Estaque", 1906. Oil on Canvas
Braque, "Olive Tree near Estaque", 1906. Oil on Canvas

Rumors Surrounding the Theft

Now over four years later, nothing has been publicly released about the progress of the investigation and the paintings are still missing. When pressed for information, no government agency is forthcoming and so we are left with rumors. Once such rumor is that the Serious Crime Brigade had/has placed three men under investigation for the theft- the alleged thief and two accomplices. According to anonymous police sources cited by Le Journal du Dimanche in a 2011 article, one of the alleged accomplices, known only as Jonathan, 34, told detectives that when the other two men were arrested in May of 2011, he "panicked and destroyed the canvasses before throwing them into a rubbish truck”.

The police sources noted they were skeptical of Jonathan’s account, but could not "totally rule out” this disastrous scenario. Le Journal du Dimanch further explains that the police were able to track down Jonathan from their arrest of Vrejan T “Spiderman”, 43, who was detained days after the heist over a separate art theft from a chic Paris apartment. Under questioning Vrejan T reportedly recounted how he loosened the screws in a window then returned a few nights later to remove the frame and sliced through a padlock on an iron grille. Initially he explained he had gone there only to steal the Léger on a job, but once inside was "surprised" when the burglary alarm failed to sound and picked up the four other works.

Vrejan T reportedly further explained to investigators he had stolen the Léger for Jean-Michel C, 56, an antiques dealer with a shop called Antiquités Bastille who was himself arrested in May of 2010 for selling other stolen artworks. However Jean-Michel C reportedly told police sources that Vrejan T had left the works at his boutique without his consent and so he then passed them onto Jonathan who had mentioned potential Israeli buyers. This was where Jonathan denied selling the works and claimed throwing them into the rubbish truck as previously mentioned. All of which is heresy as it is unaccredited accounts in a newspaper article, but it is a fascinating story nonetheless.

Needless to say as the paintings have not been recovered and no information has been publicly released pertaining to any details into the investigation, anyone with information on the paintings' whereabouts is asked to contact INTERPOL .

All of the Stolen Works:

Picasso; Modigliani; Léger Braque; Matisse
Picasso; Modigliani; Léger Braque; Matisse

Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris

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Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris:
11 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France

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Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris

Reuters News Release on the Theft

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