The French High Court has upheld a two-year suspended jail sentence for Pablo Picasso’s former electrician and his wife, Pierre and Danielle Le Guennec, who were accused of stealing a trove of 271 of the artist’s worksincluding nine Cubist collages, sketchbooks, lithographs, and a painting from the Spanish modernist’s Blue Periodwith an estimated value of between $74 million and $98 million, reports Newsweek.
While Pierre was found guilty of possessing stolen artworks in 2015 by a higher court and the verdict was upheld in 2016, it was then overturned by the Cour de Cassation, France’s supreme court of appeal, which ordered a retrial. The latest ruling marks the third time the couple was found guilty of the crime.
The Le Guennecs initially claimed Picasso gifted them the workswhich were stored in large trash bagsbut later told an appeals court that the artist’s widow, Jacqueline, had asked them to hide the collection for her. Pierre claimed that when Jacqueline came to recover the art, she let him keep one of the bags.
The case came to light in 2010, when Pierre brought the works to Picasso’s son Claude Ruiz-Picasso, the founder of the Picasso Administration, which manages the artist’s estate, to be authenticated. The organization determined that they were created by the artist. Since, according to the family, the artist rarely gave away unsigned works, the lack of signature on the pieces was a red flag. Shortly thereafter, the estate filed a report with the authorities.
Jean-Jacques Neuer, Ruiz-Picasso’s lawyer, called the court verdict “a triumph of truth [that] marks the end of a cover-up.”