Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Picasso, Mondrian works stolen in Athens art heist

By Bryony Jones, CNN
updated 10:51 PM EST, Mon January 9, 2012
This portrait of a woman by Pablo Picasso, from 1939, is among a number of works stolen from the National Gallery in Athens, Greece, on Monday 9 January 2012.
This portrait of a woman by Pablo Picasso, from 1939, is among a number of works stolen from the National Gallery in Athens, Greece, on Monday 9 January 2012.
HIDE CAPTION
Athens National Gallery art heist
Picasso reverse Athens art heist
Piet Mondrian Windmill Athens art heist
Guglielmo Caccia sketch Athens art heist
<<
<
1
2
3
4
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Paintings by Picasso, Mondrian stolen in raid on National Art Gallery in Athens
  • Thief, or thieves, tricked guard into deactivating alarm, broke in through balcony door
  • Raider dropped second piece by Mondrian while trying to flee
  • Picasso work had been donated to the Greek people for their resistance during WWII

London (CNN) -- A Pablo Picasso painting given to the Greek people in recognition of their resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II has been stolen from the National Art Gallery in Athens.

"Head of a Woman," painted in 1939, was among three works taken in the early morning heist on Monday, the authorities said. A fourth work was dropped by the thief, or thieves, during their getaway.

The Picasso portrait, which depicts a woman in a white blouse against a blue background, is inscribed on the reverse: "For the Greek people, a tribute from Picasso." It was donated by the artist in 1946.

Greek police say the raider, or raiders, also made off with Piet Mondrian's "Landscape with a mill," and a pen-and-ink sketch of San Diego de Alcala in ecstasy by Renaissance artist Guglielmo Caccia.

"Landscape with a farm," a second figurative painting by Dutch artist Mondrian -- who is better known for his abstract works -- was left behind as the burglar ran away.

Officers say the intruder, or intruders, interfered with the alarm system several times overnight, setting it off repeatedly so that it was disabled by the museum guards.

At about 4.30am local time (06:30 GMT), the raider(s) broke into the gallery's temporary exhibition area through an aluminum-framed door on a balcony.

During the theft, a motion detector was activated, alerting a guard who chased one thief, but was unable to catch him.

The raid led Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis to criticize security at the gallery, which is home to works by Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse and Peter Paul Rubens.

"I am very sorry because an artwork of huge value was stolen," news agency Agence France-Presse quoted Papoutsis as saying. "This incident should prompt a re-evaluation of the National Gallery's security arrangements."

Athens' National Art Gallery showcases works from the 14th to the 20th centuries, and is best known for its collections of Greek and Renaissance art, including paintings by El Greco, Tiepolo and Brueghel.

The theft took place on the final day of an exhibition entitled "Unknown Treasures," which had featured prints and etchings by Albrecht Duerer and Rembrandt van Rijn.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:05 AM EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
Viewing Bruegel's The Way to Calvary, director Lech Majewski says, is like watching a film unfold -- so he's brought the work to the big screen.
updated 11:02 AM EDT, Fri March 30, 2012
Detail from
A study for Paul Cezanne's master work "The Card Players," missing for decades, has been rediscovered in a Texas art collection.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Fri March 23, 2012
A painting dismissed for years as the work of an unknown artist has been identified as a piece by Vincent Van Gogh, after x-ray tests.
updated 4:46 AM EDT, Wed March 14, 2012
A Leonardo da Vinci mural unseen since the 16th century may have been found hidden behind a Florentine fresco painted by another artist.
updated 8:49 AM EDT, Mon March 12, 2012
The American wing at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art re-opens to the public following a decade-long renovation program.
updated 6:31 AM EST, Fri March 2, 2012
The world-famous Ghent Altarpiece, completed in 1432, can now be viewed on a specially-designed, open source website.
updated 8:41 PM EST, Thu February 23, 2012
With its palaces, sculpted parks, concert halls and museums, Vienna is a city steeped in culture. Take a tour with CNN World's Treasures.
updated 8:48 AM EST, Thu February 23, 2012
Edvard Munch's The Scream (1895), which is to be sold at Sotheby's in New York on May 2, 2012.
One of the world's most iconic works of art will go under the hammer in May, and could sell for tens of millions of dollars at auction in New York.
updated 1:39 PM EST, Thu February 16, 2012
Heavy snow has already wreaked havoc across Europe, now it is damaging some of its most recognized historic monuments.
updated 12:34 PM EST, Mon February 13, 2012
Join World's Treasures for a tour through Charles Dickens' London to celebrate the bicentenary of the celebrated British author's birth.
ADVERTISEMENT