A retired French electrician and his wife have shared with the press they had in their possession 271 undocumented, unseen works of art by Pablo Picasso, with an estimated worth of near $79.35 million, according to Reuters.
Picasso gifted many of his sketches and paintings and was prolific in creating them, yet his electrician seems to have hit the lottery for amount of items owned by the late Spanish artist.
The collection is currently under lock and key after a judicial appeal by Picasso’s heirs.
The items are from the artist’s Blue and Cubist periods according to Reuters, and are worth many tens of millions.
“We have questions, legitimate questions about where the paintings came from,” Claudia Andrieu, legal counsel for the Picasso Foundation, told Reuters Television. “We are discovering new pieces, completely unknown pieces that had never been printed in any book.”
The chain of events began when Picasso’s son Claude Picasso received a letter from the electrician who said he owned original Picasso pieces and wanted to have them verified for authenticity.
The electrician, Pierre Le Guennec, drove to Paris with the paintings in a suitcase and laid them out on a table.
“I felt a great surprise, naturally, lots of emotion at the discovery of pieces with which we were not familiar. But also a deep disturbance,” he told French daily Liberation. “Many of these pieces were not dated, which means they never should have left the studio.”
Pierre Le Guennec told Reuters Television that Picasso’s wife gave him the artworks.
“It’s Madame (Picasso) who gave them. But if Madame gave them, Monsieur was aware of it. She wasn’t going to do it just like that, was she?” he said, speaking through a gate in front of his property. “What did you want me to do with them? … They stayed in a box with other boxes that I have, from my job.”
Claude Picasso believes this story to be false. “It doesn’t hold up, frankly,” Picasso said.
Le Guennec denied stealing the paintings.
So far, Picasso’s heirs appealed to a judge to have the works held by the courts until the mystery is solved.
The haul includes nine extremely rare Cubist collages, a watercolor from Picasso’s Blue period, several painted hand studies, some 30 lithographs and over 200 drawings, as well as portraits of the artist’s first wife, Olga Khokhlova.
“Mr. Picasso is only interested in the history of art,” Andrieu told Reuters. “We got the pieces secured, and now it is for the judge to determine how the pieces were obtained.”