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article imageParis Museum art heist includes Picasso, Matisse and more

By Kim I. Hartman     May 20, 2010 in Entertainment
Paris - A hooded thief has stolen five masterpieces including a Picasso and a Matisse in a dawn raid from a Paris museum today. The daring $123 million heist is set to be what may be one of the biggest crimes in art history.
Museum officials discovered the paintings - believed to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds - missing early this morning at the Paris Museum of Modern Art. A lone thief disguised in a hood was captured on the museum's CCTV cameras leaping through a broken window, the Paris prosecutor's office said. It is not yet clear if he was working with other people, reports The Guardian.
He was heavily disguised with a hood and face covering,’ said an officer at the scene. An official said the paintings were by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, George Braque, Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Leger.
Picasso's 'Dove with Green Peas' (1912) and Matisse's 'Pastoral' (1906) were among the masterpieces taken.
The others were George Braque's 'Landscape with Olive Tree' (1906), Amedeo Modogliani's 'Woman with a Fan' (1919) and Fernand Leger's 'Still Life with a Chandelier' (1922).
Picasso s  Dove with Green Peas   painted in 1912
Picasso's 'Dove with Green Peas', painted in 1912
Wikipedia
The prosecutor's office initially estimated the five paintings' total worth at as much as 500 million euros. The museum itself has since downgraded that estimate to about 100 million euros ($123 million). Experts maintained the paintings would be worth hundreds of millions at auction, reports ABC news.
Experts in France said they would be 'impossible to sell' on the open market. Art critic Louis Maillot said: 'These painting could never be sold, they would be spotted instantly. 'The usual scenario is that these things are stolen to order for private collectors. 'They are very difficult to value but the price is enormous - they could fetch in the region of £100million at auction.'
'It's an enormous crime - one of the biggest in art history,' said a source close to the enquiry.
Police and investigators have cordoned off the museum, across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower.
Sensors suggested that a reinforced glass window was smashed at 6.50am. A broken lock was also found.
Police are examining all the security videos available. A woman who answered the phone at the museum said questions about the theft would only be answered by the office of Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe.
France has traditionally been at the centre of the international art theft underworld, with paintings regularly stolen to order.
Jean-Marie Baron, an art critic, told The Guardian it was possible that the thieves were seeking to exploit sale opportunities in parts of the world which were less likely to snub stolen goods. Some commentators hinted at darker motives, pointing out that art thefts committed from the inside are not unheard of.
"It will be interesting to find out how much the paintings are insured for: if they were not properly insured, it would be a very bad surprise for the museum," said Baron
.
Today, as the museum's ornate bronze doors remained firmly shut and written notices informed visitors that "technical reasons" were to blame, the sense of disbelief was palpable among the institution's staff and devotees. Patricia Schneider, a New Yorker on holiday in Paris, who said she had been to the museum many times, said she was "a little stunned and shocked".
Matisse s  Pastoral  painted 1906
Matisse's 'Pastoral" painted 1906
Wikipedia
"It feels intrusive when any great art work is stolen," she said. Her mother, Mimi, added: "That it can happen in this day and age, with all the security measures that are taken, is appalling."
Picasso is the most stolen artist in the world because of his prolific output, recognisable signature and valuable works. There are more than 500 missing Picassos on the London-based Art Loss Register of stolen art. The Museum of Modern Art in Paris, which is dedicated to 20th Century art, is one of the most highly secure in the world. It was inaugurated in 1961 and contains around 8000 works, all illustrating various art world trends.
Fernand Leger s  Still Life with a Chandelier  painted 1922
Fernand Leger's 'Still Life with a Chandelier' painted 1922
Wikipedia
George Braque s  Landscape with Olive Tree  painted 1906
George Braque's 'Landscape with Olive Tree' painted 1906
Wikipedia
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