Stolen Picasso, Mondrian found in dry riverbed near Athens
Missing for 9 years, paintings found wrapped in plastic after arrest of suspect in 2012 heist
A painting donated to Greece by Pablo Picasso will go back on display at the newly renovated National Gallery in Athens after its recovery from a 2012 heist and the arrest of a 49-year-old construction worker as a suspect.
Authorities said Tuesday that Picasso's Woman's Head and the work by the Dutch master Piet Mondrian, Stammer Mill with Summer House, were stolen in January 2012 from the National Gallery in Athens.
They were recovered, wrapped in plastic sheets and hidden in a dry riverbed outside Athens after the suspect was detained for questioning.
The Picasso work of a female in cubist style was donated to Greece in 1949 with a dedication "in homage to the Greek people" for their resistance against the German-led occupation in World War II.
"The painting is of special importance and emotional value for the Greek people as the great painter personally dedicated it to the Greek people for their struggle against fascist and Nazi [occupying] forces of the Axis, and it bears his hand-written dedication," Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said.
WATCH | Stolen paintings recovered:
"That is why it was impossible for this painting not only to be sold but even to be exhibited anywhere as it would be immediately identifiable as being stolen from the National Gallery."
The National Gallery was recently reopened after a major renovation that lasted nine years and was delayed for months due to the pandemic.
Mendoni did not say when the recovered works would go back on display.
The suspect is a Greek man who is believed to have acted alone, police said.
They were investigating his claim that a third stolen work, a drawing of a religious scene by Italian 16th century painter Guglielmo Caccia, was damaged and discarded shortly after the 2012 break-in.
Police did not give details on how the suspect and paintings were located but noted that they had been moved to the dry riverbed recently, apparently following reports in the Greek news media that authorities were close to making an arrest.
Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisohoidis described the recovery as a "major success."
"At the new National Gallery, they [paintings] will be given the place they deserve. Congratulations to the regional police teams," he added.