Dutch art detective recovers stolen Picasso painting after 20 years

Arthur Brand, a man nicknamed the “Indiana Jones of the art world,” has done it again.

The Dutch art historian and art crime investigator recently located Pablo Picasso’s Portrait of Dora Maar ( also known as Buste de Femme) after it was stolen from a Saudi sheikh’s yacht on the French Riviera in 1999.

The 1938 painting, which hung in Picasso’s home until he died in 1973, had a personal significance to the artist: Dora Maar was his lover and muse for seven years.

According to the BBC, Brand began searching for the rare masterpiece — believed to be worth $28 million — about four years ago when he heard that a “Picasso stolen from a ship” was believed to circulating in the Netherlands criminal underworld.

Arthur Brand told the Associated Press that he took possession of the 1938 painting Buste de Femme two weeks ago after trailing it for years in Amsterdam.

Brand, whose previous finds include a pair of bronze horses sculpted for Adolf Hitler, has since handed over the painting, which he estimates to be worth around €25m (£21.3m), to an insurance company. It was not immediately clear what would happen to the painting.

Brand said he knew it was the real thing as soon as he got his hands on it and peeled away two plastic bags covering the canvas. “You know it’s a Picasso because there is some magic coming off it,” he said.

He said that since the theft from a yacht moored in the French Riviera port of Antibes, a number of forgeries had been offered to insurers and rejected. “But a forger never knows how the back looks,” Brand said, without specifying what was there. “When I saw the back of the painting, I knew it was the real one.”

Brand said the painting had circulated in the criminal underworld of the Dutch capital. “It was used as some kind of money as payment for drug and arm deals,” he said.

Eventually a person who had the painting in their possession decided to turn it in and reached out to Brand. “[The businessman] thought the Picasso was part of a legitimate deal. It turns out the deal was legitimate — the method of payment was not,” Brand told AFP.

American Fine Art