A Picasso Art Thief Used One Sketch As A Bandage
In 2012, the National Art Gallery in Athens was closed for renovations. That meant it was a lot harder for thieves to slip in and rob the place while pretending to be tourists, but it was a lot easier to rob the place overall because the museum seriously cut back on security. Two thieves entered the place dressed as builders. This wasn't an especially cunning disguise; the thieves were builders.
The lead thief (whose name was never released to the media, so let's just call him Bob) cased the building for six months. On the day of the heist, his partner set off one of the place's alarms in a far part of the building. This diverted the few security guards, letting Bob collect four pieces: Picasso's Woman's Head, Piet Mondrian’s Stammer Mill With Summer House, another painting by Mondrian, and a sketch by Guglielmo Caccia from the 16th century.
On the way out, he dropped one of the Mondrian paintings. That was a fair chunk of the heist lost right there. Then he found he'd sliced himself open, breaking through all that glass. He needed to stop the bleeding quick, or he'd be spotted before he made it back home. So he wrapped up the cut in the nearest thing available: the Caccia sketch. When he got home, the sketch was of course ruined, so he flushed it down the toilet.
For that toilet story, we have just Bob's word, but we believe him because when the authorities solved the case this past June, they found the two paintings but no sign of the sketch. They caught Bob just as he was about to fly out of Greece to Amsterdam. The two paintings, he'd wrapped in plastic and stashed in a dry riverbed not far from Athens.
This summer, the museum unveiled the paintings to mark the gallery's reopening—those 2012 renovations had finally finished, after nine years. The two canvases, now mounted on wood, were placed on a shelf ... and as the cameras filmed the scene, the Picasso slipped and fell to the floor.
A random masked guy picked it back up and replaced it. It was seemingly undamaged.
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Top image: Picasso, Matti/Wiki Commons