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Greek Police recover Picasso, Mondrian paintings stolen in 2012 (UPD)

Greek police has said that they have recovered two paintings by 20th century masters Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian, stolen in 2012 from the National Art Gallery, the biggest state art gallery in Athens,.

A statement late Monday said the two works were in the hands of the police.

According to state broadcaster ERT, police arrested a 49-year-old Greek man who appears to be also the thief -or one of the thieves – of the paintings.

The two masterworks were reportedly found hidden in a crypt in gorge in Keratea/Porto Rafti, east Attica on Monday.

The paintings were stripped from their frames during a well-organized, overnight heist at the National Art Gallery on Jan. 9 2012. The burglars had also taken a pen and ink drawing of a religious scene by Italian 16th century painter Guglielmo Caccia. They had initially grabbed a fourth work, also by Mondrian, but abandoned it as they fled.

Police said at the time that the heist was completed in about seven minutes.

The stolen Picasso “Woman’s Head” (1939) was a cubist female bust which the Spanish painter had donated to Greece in 1949 with a dedication “in homage to the Greek people” -«Pour le Peuple Grec, Hommage de Picasso»- for their resistance to Nazi German occupying forces during World War II.

The thieves also took a 1905 representational oil painting of a riverside “Windmill Stammer” by Mondrian, the Dutch painter who became famous for his later, abstract linear works.

At a press conference by Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis and Culture Minister Lina Mendoni, it was said that the thief, a construction worker, had confessed the theft.

He said that the Caccia painting was destroyed during the removal form the frame and he disposed it in the toilet of his home.

PS What is highly interesting is that the paintings were found just a month after the National Art Gallery opened again to the public after years of being closed due to refurbishment.

sources: ert, amna, ap

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