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Left: Henri Matisse, “Odalisque in Red Pants” (1925); right: the fake version of the work that thieves substituted at Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas (image via artdaily.com)

A Matisse painting valued at $3 million was returned to Venezuela yesterday, after disappearing from an art museum there at least a decade prior, Reuters reported.  “Odalisque in Red Pants” (1925) was stolen from the Museum of Contemporary Art of Caracas sometime between 1999 and 2000, but its disappearance wasn’t discovered until 2002 because the thieves replaced it with a “crudely executed” fake. The FBI recovered the painting in Miami Beach in 2012, after a man named Pedro Marcuello Guzman offered to sell it to undercover agents for $740,000. Guzman was sentenced to 33 months in prison; his accomplice, Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, was sentenced to 21 months.

Venezuelan authorities showing off the returned Matisse on Monday (screenshot via YouTube)

The work apparently remains in “extraordinary condition” and was brought home to great enthusiasm in Venezuela. “This is another achievement of the Bolivarian revolution, of a government in touch with the arts,” Culture Minister Fidel Barbarito told TV reporters at Caracas airport, where the painting was briefly shown off upon arrival.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...