Dutch art detective recovers stolen Picasso painting after 20 years

Dutch art detective recovers stolen Picasso painting after 20 years

Arthur Brand recognised 1938 work Buste de Femme in Amsterdam by detail on back

A Dutch art detective has said he has recovered a valuable painting by Pablo Picasso 20 years after it was stolen from a wealthy Saudi Arabian’s yacht in France.

Arthur Brand told the Associated Press that he took possession of the 1938 painting Buste de Femme two weeks ago after trailing it for years in Amsterdam.

Brand, whose previous finds include a pair of bronze horses sculpted for Adolf Hitler, has since handed over the painting, which he estimates to be worth around €25m (£21.3m), to an insurance company. It was not immediately clear what would happen to the painting.

Brand said he knew it was the real thing as soon as he got his hands on it and peeled away two plastic bags covering the canvas. “You know it’s a Picasso because there is some magic coming off it,” he said.

But that wasn’t the only reason he was convinced of its authenticity. In cases of stolen art, he said, the back of a painting can tell experts more than the front.

He said that since the theft from a yacht moored in the French Riviera port of Antibes, a number of forgeries had been offered to insurers and rejected. “But a forger never knows how the back looks,” Brand said, without specifying what was there. “When I saw the back of the painting, I knew it was the real one.”

Brand said the painting had circulated in the criminal underworld of the Dutch capital. “It was used as some kind of money as payment for drug and arm deals,” he said.

Eventually a person who had the painting in their possession decided to turn it in and reached out to Brand.

Martin Finkelnberg, the head of the Dutch national police’s art and antique criminality team, welcomed the recovery. No arrests have been made.

Finkelnberg told Dutch national daily De Volkskrant that having such a painting can be a burden and taking it to Brand is a way out. “The most important thing is that the artwork is back,” he said.

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