France’s highest appeals court overturned the conviction of Pablo Picasso’s former electrician Pierre Le Guennec and his wife, Danielle Le Guennec, who were given two-year suspended sentences in 2015 for storing 271 artworks by Picasso in their garage for four decades. In 2016, a higher court supported the verdict, but yesterday the Court of Cassation ordered a retrial, ruling that there was inadequate evidence that “the goods held by the suspects had been stolen,” according to the AFP.
“It's a great decision which reinforces the line that the Le Guennecs have always upheldthat there was no theft whatsoever,” said Antoine Vey, the couple’s lawyer.
The cache, which was kept in a box the pair initially insisted was a gift given by the artist for Pierre’s loyal service in the early 1970s, surfaced in 2010 after the two brought a suitcase filled with the works to Picasso’s son, Claude Ruiz-Picasso, for authentication. Uncertain about how the works ended up in the custody of the Le Guennecs, Ruiz-Picasso filed a lawsuit claiming the trove was stolen, and the works were confiscated by the police.
Since the public discovery of the works, the electrician has diverged from his original account, saying that they belonged to a large group of works that Picasso’s widow, Jacqueline, entrusted him to conceal after the artist’s death in 1973. Pierre, who is in his late seventies, alleges that Jacqueline later recovered the works but let him keep a box. As Picasso’s electrician, Pierre installed burglar alarm systems in the artist’s numerous homes in France, including his villa in Cannes.
The value of the collection has not been officially assessed, but they include nine Cubist collages, drawings of women and horses, two-hundred sketches, and dozens of lithographs, as well as a work from Picasso’s Blue Period. A lawyer representing Ruiz-Picasso claims the works, which seem to span the first thirty years of the twentieth century, are worth $80 million.