Stolen paintings by artistsand have been recovered by Greek police, who have arrested a man in connection with a museum heist that took place nearly a decade ago.
In 2012, thieves broke into Greece's National Gallery in Athens and nabbed Picasso's 1939 painting "Woman's Head" and Mondrian's 1905 "Mill." The former was personally donated by the Spanish artist in recognition of Greece's resistance against the Nazi occupation during World War II.
That artwork is particularly special. The back of the painting features the inscription: "For the Greek people, a tribute by Picasso."
According to the criminal's confession, to mislead security guards to other parts of the building, he activated the gallery's alarm system several times before actually breaking in in the early morning of January 12, 2012. Police at the time said security measures were basically "non-existent."
The artworks were taken from their frames during the heist, which lasted just seven minutes.
A third artwork, a 16th-century pen-and-ink sketch by Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia, was also stolen, but the suspect allegedly damaged the work and flushed it down the toilet, BBC News reports. A second Mondrian painting was apparently dropped during the thief's escape.
Based on a tip, police found the two artworks in good condition, hidden at a gorge in Keratea, a rural area near Athens. They arrested a 49-year-old Greek man who worked as a house painter and construction worker, authorities said Tuesday, and he confessed, detailing the crime.
"Today is a really special day full of joy but also full of emotion," Culture Minister Lina Mendoni told reporters during a news conference. "The [Picasso] painting carries a special weight and value for the Greek people as the great artist dedicated it to the struggle of the Greek people against the fascist axis and bears the painter's hand-written dedication."
The inscription provides an explanation for why the paintings were kept hidden for so long. Mendoni added," That is the reason why it was impossible for the painting not only to be sold but also to be exhibited anywhere."
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