In Brief

Court Rules That Picasso’s Electrician Stole 271 of the Artist’s Works

Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec’s Picasso stockpile was estimated to be worth €70 million (~$77.5 million).

A 1909 portrait of Fernande Olivier by Pablo Picasso — not a part of the Le Guennecs’s hoard (via Yann Caradec’s Flickrstream)

It’s lights-out for Picasso’s electrician! In the end to a shocking tale of intrigue and litigation, France’s high appeals court upheld a suspended two-year sentence against former electrician Pierre Le Guennec and his wife, Danielle Le Guennec, for possession of 271 stolen works by the famous painter. The couple had sequestered the works in their garage for the last 40 years, which is not exactly the behavior of people who — as Pierre alleged at his original trial in 2015 — received works of art in exchange for loyal service at the Picassos’s home in the 1970s. Back in court in 2016, Le Guennec reversed his story, claiming he hid the works at the behest of Picasso’s widow, Jaqueline — her attempt to hide them from his son and heir to the estate.

“Mrs. Jacqueline Picasso had problems with [her stepson] Claude [Ruiz] Picasso,” Le Guennec told The Guardian in 2016.

The works in question include drawings, Cubist collages, lithographs, and watercolors from the years 1900 to 1932. The trove of lost Picassos were rediscovered after four decades, in 2010, when Le Guennec attempted to have them appraised.

This week, a report by Aljazeera confirms the final twist in the legal saga that has tied up the Le Guennecs and the Picassos for nearly the last decade, including an overturned sentence in 2018, after the 2016 inquest raised questions about the 2015 trial. At that time, the Court of Cassation, France’s highest appeals court, ordered a retrial on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that “the goods held by the suspects had been stolen,” according to the AFP.

The Picasso stockpile was estimated to be worth €70 million (~$77.5 million) though the pieces are unsigned and never mentioned in any inventory or book — which is what necessitated Le Guennec’s attempt to secure a certificate of authentication. Picassos, Picassos everywhere, and not a drop to sell!

Despite the strong sense that the Le Guennecs were involved in some form of nefarious dealings with respect to the Picasso hoard, they remain the most fundamentally sympathetic players in a drama that involves a character — the ubiquitous Picasso — who is as legendary for being an asshole as he was for being a brilliant painter, and his presumably already financially comfortable heirs. While the fortune lost is hardly a negligible sum, the suspended sentence is perhaps a shrug in terms of the culpability of those who seem to have yielded little from the situation besides 10 years of legal battles. And while $77 million does seem a bit pricey for electrical services, lord knows a good electrician is hard to find.

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