The artwork was painted by Picasso in 1971, just two years before he died at the age of 91. It was stolen in October last year from a Dutch art gallery and the remains have now possibly surfaced, after the work was burned literally to a crisp.
Known as "El Loco (cabeza de arlequín)", or "The Madman (harlequin head)", the painting has allegedly been burned in an oven by the mother of one of the thieves.
Continuing with investigations of the theft from the art gallery in the Netherlands, investigators in Romania found "small fragments of painting primer, the remains of canvas and paint", as well as some copper and steel nails that pre-dated the 20th century inside the oven of a woman, whose son, Radu Dogaru, was among the accused in the theft.
The forensic investigator, Ernest Oberlander-Tarnoveanu, cannot say for sure that the burnt remains are from the stolen paintings, but he did say that if this were proved to be the case, it would be "a crime against humanity."
Dogaru's son was charged with stealing artworks by Picasso, Monet, Matisse and other renowned artists. Reportedly the art was worth between €100 million and €200 million.
Olga Dogaru, the thief's mother, admitted last week to burning the paintings to “destroy evidence” and prevent police from being able to blame her son for the theft. Dogaru apparently also claimed to have hidden the artwork in an abandoned house and also a cemetery in the Romanian village of Carcaliu, but she says she dug them up and then incinerated them once police started searching the village.
She told Romanian Mediafax news agency, "I placed the suitcase containing the paintings in the stove.”
Six Romanians, including Dogaru's son, Radu have been charged in what is the biggest art theft yet in the Netherlands, for stealing 20 works from Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum in 1991.
Besides the Picasso, other paintings in the heist included Monet's 1901 "Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London"; Matisse's 1919 "Reading Girl in White and Yellow"; Paul Gauguin's 1898 "Girl in Front of Open Window"; Meyer de Haan's "Self-Portrait, around 1890"; and Lucian Freud's 2002 work "Woman With Eyes Closed."
Dogaru told the media that the thieves struggled to find a buyer after a Romanian fashion designer and the Russian mafia turned down the paintings.
Oberlander-Tarnoveanu said that forensic specialists have been analyzing the ashes since March and hope to submit their findings to prosecutors next week.
The Picasso painting, while not one of his most famous works, is one of a series of paintings of harlequins the Málaga artist painted during his lifetime. It is thought that he was influenced in these works by a close relationship with circus people during his time in France as a young man.
The paintings were owned by the private Triton Foundation, a collection of avant-garde art compiled by multimillionaire Willem Cordia. Cordia was an investor and businessman who died in 2011 and was survived by his wife, Marijke Cordia-Van der Laan.
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