Pablo Picasso: Art Thief

The Secret History of Art recently published a peer-reviewed academic article on the “affaire des statuettes,” in which Pablo Picasso may be reasonably seen to have commissioned the theft of statue heads from the Louvre.  The article appeared in the journal, Arte, Individuo y Sociedad, and can be accessed here.

For some reason the footnotes were not included in the online version (the editors ave been contacted with a request to amend this), with only in-text citations.  Until this is addressed, I am including the footnotes here.  Of particular import is my initial note, giving proper credit for the majority of the on-site research to Dr Silvia Loreti, whose pioneering work on this subject first appeared as a chapter in Charney (ed) Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger 2009). Here is the reference that should have appeared in the journal version of the article:

picasso hands up

“This article is adapted from a chapter in Charney, Noah The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting (ARCA Press, 2011).  I am indebted in this article to the art historian Silvia Loreti, who was the first to break the full details of the story of Picasso and Apollinaire’s “affaire des statuettes.”  While scholars such as John Richardson mention the affair, and Picasso’s former lover Fernande Olivier recalls portions of the case in her memoirs, Loreti was the first to focus on the issue and dig deeply into the Louvre archives, noting numerous irregularities for the first time.  The examination of the Louvre archives is her work and, rather than citing her efforts in the majority of these notes, suffice it to say that the credit for digging up information on this case goes to her and to John Richardson, in his definitive Picasso biography series.  Loreti’s article was first published in Charney, Noah (ed.) Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger, 2009).  This article could not have been written without her extensive research, and the credit for discovery of most of the facts is entirely hers.”

*

My work on this subject is based on Loreti’s and John Richardson’s research, and is largely concerned with painting the entire picture of the “affaire des statuettes” and the Mona Lisa theft, and their roles in the history of art and art theft. I used secondary research for the most part, and the thanks for the primary source material research goes to Loreti and Richardson.

FOOTNOTES (Please contact the author if you would like to be emailed a copy of this article with all footnotes)

*This article is adapted from a chapter in Charney, Noah The Thefts of the Mona Lisa: On Stealing the World’s Most Famous Painting (ARCA Press, 2011).  I am indebted in this article to the art historian Silvia Loreti, who was the first to break the full details of the story of Picasso and Apollinaire’s “affaire des statuettes.”  While scholars such as John Richardson mention the affair, and Picasso’s former lover Fernande Olivier recalls portions of the case in her memoirs, Loreti was the first to focus on the issue and dig deeply into the Louvre archives, noting numerous irregularities for the first time.  The examination of the Louvre archives is her work and, rather than citing her efforts in the majority of these notes, suffice it to say that the credit for digging up information on this case goes to her and to John Richardson, in his definitive Picasso biography series.  Loreti’s article was first published in Charney, Noah (ed.) Art & Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World (Praeger, 2009).  This article could not have been written without her extensive research, and the credit for discovery of most of the facts is entirely hers.

[1] These statements were made by Edmond Pottier, a Louvre curator, who made comments after he recognized photographs of a pair of statue heads published in Paris-Journal.  Pottier, Edmond, August 29, 1911, Archives des musées nationaux, Musée du Louvre, folder A15, first discovered by Silvia Loreti.

[1] Picasso discussed the affaire des statuettes and its influence on his painting in a 1960 interview: Dor de la Souchère, Romuald Picasso à Antibes (Hazan : Paris, 1960), p.15

[1] This is attested to in a letter written by Guillaume Apollinaire in 1915: Apollinaire, Guillaume, Letter to Madeleine Pages July 30, 1915, in Apollinaire, Lettres à Madeleine. Tendre comme le souvenir (Gallimard : Paris, 2005), pp.96-8.

[1] Precious little is known about Géry Pieret (a shame because his biography would be fascinating).  Most of the surviving material was first published in John Richardson A Life of Picasso: 1907-1917 – The Painter of Modern Life (Pimlico: London, 1997), vol.2, pp.20-1.

[1] For more on the origins of the Louvre, please see Charney (2010).

[1] Le Matin, Nov. 10, 1906

[1] Esterow (1966), p.122

[1] Paris-Journal 29 August 1911.  Unless cited as “quoted in,” the translations are by the author.

[1] “On vol au Louvre”, Le Matin, Nov. 10, 1906; “On a volé au Louvre, et on y volera demain, si des solutions seriéuses ne sont prises”, L’Intransigeant, Nov. 11, 1906, p.2.  These objects were found in a hairdresser’s shop in 1908, and a Louvre guard was imprisoned for his role in their theft.

[1] This letter was written on 9 September 1911 and was published 12 September 1911 in Paris-Journal, p.1

[1] “Le Louvre récupère ses richesses,” Paris-Journal,  6 September 1911, p.1

[1] Pottier, Edmond, August 29, 1911, Archives des musées nationaux, Musée du Louvre, folder A15.  Pottier to Homolle, 31 August 1911

[1] Pottier, Edmond, Sept. 6, 1911, Archives des musées nationaux, Musée du Louvre, folder A15.

[1] One may wonder why the actual thief was not demonized—in this period, as we will discuss later, the idea of a gentlemanly thief was romanticized, based largely on the novels, in France, of Maurice LeBlanc.  As a Belgian, Géry Pieret was foreign but francophone, and therefore not nearly so foreign as Picasso and Apollinaire who may have spoken good French but who would have drawn the xenophobia of many of the French at this time

[1] Olivier, Fernande Picasso et ses amis (1933), Pygmalion: Paris, 2002, p.184

[1] For more on this, see Richardson (1997)

[1] Ibid.

[1] Apollinaire, Guillaume, Letter to Madeleine Pages July 30, 1915, in Apollinaire, Lettres à Madeleine. Tendre comme le souvenir, Gallimard : Paris, 2005, pp.96-8

[1] Jacquet-Pfau, Christine and Décaudin, Michel “L’Affaire des statuettes. Suite sans fin…,” Que vlo-ve?, 23 (July-Sept. 1987), pp. 21-3

[1] “M. Guillaume Apollinaire raconte l’histoire de son secrétaire Géry Pieret, Baron Ignace d’Ormesan, voleur au Louvre et en quelques autres lieux”; “M. Apollinaire prouve que Géry Pieret n’a pas pu voler la Joconde”, Le Matin, Sept. 13, 1911, p. 1.

[1] Soffici, Ardengo Ricordi di vita artistica e letteraria (Florence, 1931), p.47

[1] Postcard addressed to Picasso from Bruxelles and signed Guillaume Apollinaire and Géry Pieret, April 13, 1907: Caizergues, Pierre and Seckel, Hélène (eds.) Picasso Apollinaire. Corréspondances (Gallimard: Paris, 1992), p.59

[1] Letter and postcard sent by Pieret to Apollinaire from Brussels respectively on date April 4, 1907 and April 7, 1907: Stallano, Jacqueline “Une relation encombrante: Géry Pieret”, in Michel Décaudin (ed.), Amis européens d’Apollinaire, Sorbonne nouvelle: Paris, 1995, p.17

[1] Art objects may be roughly defined as man-made creations deemed part of the cultural heritage of a nation or people, the primary value of which is non-intrinsic (as opposed to jewelry, for example, the value of which is mainly the sum of its components—unless the jewelry was made or owned by a renowned artist or individual, in which case its value would be raised considerably for non-intrinsic reasons).  For precise numbers of reported thefts and artworks stolen, please refer to Interpol’s Stolen Works of Art CD-ROM, published annually, or any of the Carabinieri Yearbooks, which list annual thefts from within Italy alone as ranging from 20,000-30,000 objects reported stolen.  Reported thefts certainly represent only a fraction of the actual number of thefts taking place each year.  For various reasons, many other thefts go undetected, unreported, or are improperly filed and reported

[1] The link to organized crime is documented in numerous case studies, but the connection to terrorism has been discussed and is believed by prominent government bureaus, but has not been sufficiently substantiated by documents in the public record, beyond a handful of important cases.  This assertion, as well as the ranking of art crime as the third highest-grossing criminal trade worldwide comes from a UK National Threat Assessment, conducted by SOCA (Serious Organized Crime Agency).  The statistics for the study were provided by Scotland Yard in 2006/2007, but are classified.  The report remained in the Threat Assessment for several years.  The terrorist links to the Middle East were brought to European attention by the Interpol Tracking Task Force in Iraq and were reported at the annual Interpol Stolen Works of Art meeting in Lyon in 2008 and 2009, after prior meetings had been held in Lyon, Amman, and Washington.  The Head of Interpol IP Baghdad claimed to have proof of the link between Islamic Fundamentalist terrorist groups and art crime (primarily antiquities looting).  Major bureaus, from Interpol to Scotland Yard to the Carabinieri to the US Dept of Justice, believed these reports and still broadcast the claims of it, so there is no reason to doubt it—but the details have yet to be made available to the general public or scholars

[1] Pottier, Edmond, Sept. 6, 1911, Archives des musées nationaux, Musée du Louvre, folder A15

[1] Mentioned by a tour guide on a recent visit to the Louvre

[1] Dor de la Souchère (1960), p.15.  The connections in this paragraph were first noted by Silvia Loreti in her chapter in Charney (ed.) Art & Crime (2009)

[1] There could, of course, have been another person, an as yet unidentified accomplice.  But since Apollinaire and Picasso’s involvement is well documented from various angles, and since neither they nor Géry Pieret ever mentioned another individual, despite being quite open about their involvement, a fourth accomplice does not seem likely

[1] Read, Peter Picasso et Apollinaire. Les métamorphoses de la mémoire 1905-1973 (Jean-Michel Place : Paris, 1995), p.71

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