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Thief of three masterpieces from National Gallery sentenced

A 50-year-old Greek painter/decorator was sentenced to a 6-year suspended prison sentence on Friday for stealing three artworks from the National Gallery in Athens ten years ago.

Having remained elusive for years but eventually arrested in 2021, the man had then confessed he was the perpetrator of the theft of the three masterpieces in 2021: Picasso’s ‘Head of a Woman’ (1934), Piet Mondrian’s ‘Stammer Mill with Summer House’ (1905), and of a 17th century drawing of a religious theme attributed to Guglielmo Caccia (Moncalvo).

Picasso had donated his painting to Greece in 1949 for its resistance during the country’s occupation by Nazi German forces.

The man did return the two paintings, but had said that Moncalvo’s drawing had been destroyed.

In his testimony, the man claimed that he stole the three works out of love for art, and that he didn’t expect it would be so easy to steal them, citing insufficient security measures at the gallery. He also clarified that during his attempt to steal a third master painting he was cut, and used Moncalvo’s drawing to wipe the blood.

However, art collector Stelios Garipis told the court that Moncalvo’s drawing had been traced in Florence, Italy, where it had been put up for sale but was never sold. It was, however, verified as the authentic drawing by experts, he added. It is unclear from the report if it was ever returned to Athens.

Picasso’s painting had been valued at 2 million euros, Mondrian’s at 200,000 euros, and Moncalvo’s drawing at 1,000 euros, the National Gallery ‘s Director of Collections Eftichia Agathonikou told the court.

Unfortunately, she said, the works suffered damages that cannot be seen with the naked eye except upon close inspection, referring to changes in the consistency of colors.

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