Arthur Brand, dubbed “the art world’s Indiana Jones,” has recovered a stolen Picasso painting missing for the last 20 years.
In March 1999, the Buste de Femme (Dora Maar) was stolen from the yacht of a Saudi Sheikh while moored in the port of Antibes, France.
The yacht was being renovated at the time, and one of the workers had moved the priceless artwork out of the highly-alarmed living room to an unguarded cabin. When the worker returned to the spot five days the later, the piece had vanished.
The 1938 oil painting depicts Dora Maar, a French photographer, painter and poet and the artist’s mistress for over a decade.
Instantly recognisable and completed in his iconic cubist style, the piece was part of the Picasso collection until the artist’s death in 1973.
Sold to the Sheikh by New York’s Palace Gallery for $4 million, the painting is now worth $20.5 million.
Arthur Brand, the sleuth who hunted down the stolen artwork, has garnered a reputation for his rougish ways. Last year, he uncovered a 6th-century Byzantine mosaic taken from a Cypriot church during the 70s. It was found in the care of the British royal family, who had no idea it was stolen.
Brand began searching for the Picasso after hearing rumours the piece was moving around the Dutch underworld. He later discovered the painting had been used a collateral in both the drug and arms trades.
He questioned contacts he believed may have purchased Buste de Femme (Dora Maar), or knew someone who did, and last month he finally located the legendary artwork.
The representives of a Dutch businessman approached Brand, claiming the Picasso had been obtained as a part of a payment deal. They bought the painting to him in Amsterdam, hidden by black plastic bags.
After the item’s origin was confirmed by a Pace Gallery expert, Brand handed the piece over to insurance company to determine what would happen next. However, no charges will be brought against the painting’s current owner.