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Pablo Picasso’s Study for Lysistrata, 1933, among the works stolen from Catherine Hutin-Blay. Photo: © Succession Picasso.
Pablo Picasso’s Study for Lysistrata, 1933, among the works stolen from Catherine Hutin-Blay. Photo: © Succession Picasso.

Paris Gallerists Get Prison Time for Peddling Purloined Picassos

Husband-and-wife gallerists Anne and Herbert Pfeffer on November 18 were sentenced to two and one years in jail, respectively, for selling stolen Picassos through their gallery Belle and Belle. The court suspended the sentences but additionally dissolved the gallery and ordered the pair to pay roughly €400,000 ($412,000) in fines and indemnities. As well, the couple, who maintained their innocence throughout the October 5–7 trial, are barred from working as art dealers for the next five years.

The sentence brought to a conclusion a decade-long investigation into the theft by of handyman Freddy Muchenbach of more than 550 prints and drawings by the renowned Spanish artist. Muchenbach was accused by Catherine Hutin-Blay, whose mother, Jacqueline Roque, was Picasso’s second wife, and Sylvie Baltazart-Eon, whose father, Aimé Maeght, was Picasso’s gallerist, of stealing the works from their neighboring homes, to which he had the keys. Muchenbach was briefly held in 2011 for the crimes, which took place between 2006 and 2008, but was let go, as the three-year statute of limitations had run out.

The court found that the Pfeffers were “well aware” that the works, which they bought, concealed, and sold, had been illicitly obtained. Some five hundred pilfered prints and drawings, which according to The Art Newspaper are worth more than €13.5 million, remain missing; the court’s ruling is expected to facilitate their return to Huton and Bltazart-Eon, their rightful owners. Muchenbach is said to have also stolen two sheets of paper containing several drawings by the Spanish master: The court deemed these works damaged beyond repair, as they had been cut from the original sheets in an effort to render them more salable.

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