Spain: Picasso sketch seized by customs officials in Ibiza

20 Jul

Pablo Picasso is one of Europe's most famous artists, known for his cubist paintings


Spanish customs officials at Ibiza airport discovered a sketch attributed to the artist Pablo Picasso in a passenger's suitcase in early July, the customs office said in a statement published on Monday. The 1966 sketch with the title "Trois personnages" is estimated to be worth over €450,000 ($457,000). The passenger, who flew in from the Swiss city of Zurich, failed to declare the artwork.

Officials made the discovery on July 5. The passenger said the piece was a copy and provided a receipt of 1,500 Swiss francs (€1,513, $1,533), allegedly for the work. But officials found another receipt from a Zurich art gallery totaling 450,000 Swiss francs. Art experts who analyzed the artwork said that this was in line with the sketch's market price.

Smuggled artwork determined to be an original Picasso

The search of the passenger's luggage was carried out following a tip-off by Swiss customs officials who informed their Spanish counterparts that the passenger was carrying the work under suspicious circumstances. Since the passenger denied that they had anything that had to be declared, officials began searching their luggage. Picasso, the painter who obsessively portrayed the people he loved.


A world filled with models

His studios were crammed with sketches and outlines of countless portraits. The famous painter preferred to work with models who would be around for the entire day, like family members, wives and children. Sitting still for Picasso was part of the normal daily routine.


'Jacqueline in a Black Scarf'

Picasso met Jacqueline Roque in 1952 at the Madoura pottery workshop where his ceramics were baked. When Picasso married her in 1961, he was already 80 years old, and she was 34. She helped him in his work while protecting him against the outside world, remaining his companion, muse and model until his death in 1973. He created over 400 portraits of her.


All sides of Sylvette

One of his muses was 19-year-old Sylvette David from England, whom Picasso had met in 1954. Totally enraptured by the young blonde woman, he produced 50 drawings, paintings and sculptures of her within one month only. Her trademark ponytail became trendy in the 1950s.


Artist friends

Picasso's friends also appear in his oeuvre, including painter Amadeo Modigliani (left, with Picasso, center, and art critic André Salmon, right). This picture was taken by Jean Cocteau in 1916 in front of their favorite coffee shop in Paris, Café de la Rotonde. Cocteau was also portrayed several times by Picasso.


Art dealer, abstract

Throughout his life, Pablo Picasso developed close friendships with his art dealers, especially Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. In 1907, the German-French art historian opened a small Gallery in Paris, signing exclusive contracts with artists who were to become famous later on - among them Picasso. In 1910, he painted this Cubist portrait of Kahnweiler.


Interior views

The interior world of his studio fully sufficed for an obsessed artist like Picasso. Simple vases, bowls or the bust of a woman served as models for sketches or a huge oil painting. As a painter and drawer, he remained faithful to his themes for a long time as they repeatedly popped up in different versions in his works.


Hollywood icon


In spite of all his hard work, Picasso did find time for humor, producing cartoons just for fun. In this case, he embellished a pin-up picture out of a film magazine of Esther Williams with a portrait sketch of his artist friend Juame Sabartés. The Hollywood actress became famous for swimming scenes in her films. Among her admirers was also Picasso.


Woman in a hat'

Following numerous love affairs, the young painter met Russian ballerina Olga Khokhlova in 1917, and married her. She voluntarily gave up her career at the world famous "Ballets Russes" - and facilitated his access to exclusive Paris circles. The Picasso exhibition at London's National Portrait Gallery, held until February 5, 2017, devotes an entire room to portraits of her.


Author: Heike Mund 


Switzerland is not a part of the EU's non-customs territory and so works of art with a value higher than the legal limit of €150,000 must be declared. The passenger is thus facing charges of smuggling.

The director of the Contemporary Museum of Art of Ibiza supported the customs officials with their investigation into the origin of the sketch, confirming that, based on preliminary analysis, the work is original and the receipt from the Swiss gallery matches the expected market price.

Picasso is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He was born in Spain but spent much of his life in France where he died at the age of 91 in 1973.


Author Alex Berry


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