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Stolen Picasso painting found after 20 years
Stolen Picasso painting found after 20 years

The Hague, March 27 (IANS) 'Buste de Femme', a painting by Pablo Picasso that was stolen in 1999, has been found, Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant revealed on Tuesday.

Dutch art detective Arthur Brand found the painting after it had been circulated in the Dutch underworld for years, the Xinhua news agency reported. 

In 1999 the painting was stolen from the yacht of Saudi businessman Abdul Mohsen Abdulmalik al-Sheikh in Antibes, France. The businessman bought it in the 1980s from the Pace Gallery in New York. The painting, worth four million euros ($4.5 million) at that time, was never seen again.

In 2015 Brand heard of a lost Picasso work, at first not knowing what painting to look for, and after years of detective work he came to know that this particular work, the 'Buste de Femme', had regularly appeared in the Dutch criminal circuit over the past 20 years and that it was now in the possession of a businessman, who thought to have bought it in a legitimate deal, but now did not dare go to the police with it.

"They are afraid they may be accused of theft. However, after consultation with the Dutch police and contacting the police in France, the theft turned out to be time-barred. Returning the painting voluntarily would only be a civil matter," Brand told the newspaper.

Last Thursday representatives of the businessman brought the Picasso to Brand's apartment in Amsterdam. "The painting was still in good condition but this should not have lasted two more years," Brand said. "We are just in time."

'Buste de Femme' was painted by Picasso in 1938, one year after his most famous painting, Guernica. It is a portrait of Dora Maar, who was the painter's mistress in the 1930s and 1940s, and a personal favourite of the painter.

The work can now be returned to the Saudi businessman if he repays the insurance premium of 4 million euros. "I think he will do that," said Brand. "Because the painting is now worth 25 million euros," he added. 

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