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Italy's art police recover missing Picasso painting

Italian investigators have found Pablo Picasso's missing 1912 "Violin and Bottle of Bass" oil painting. The authenticated work was given to a retired frame maker in Rome nearly 40 years ago and then forgotten about.

A special Italian police squad tasked with tracking down stolen art announced Friday they had confiscated the painting last year when the retiree sought official permission to export the work so it could be sold at auction.

The lost oil paining, portraying a violin and a beer bottle, has an estimated value of 15 million euros ($16.3 million).

Police said an unknown elderly man gave the frame maker the Picasso work in exchange for repairing a treasured picture frame of his client's deceased wife at no charge.

The frame maker said he did not know the painting's worth until last year when he casually discovered its authorship.

Authorities were made aware of the art work when British auction house Sotheby's sought permission to trade it last year.

Police then began investigating when they became suspicious the painting was a fake after its declared value of 1.4 million euros was thought to be too low.

Italian police said Friday it was dealing with "a history unbelievable in parts and still the subject of investigative scrutiny."

The 54-by-45 centimeter painting from 1912 was part of the 1961 Zervos catalogue of Picasso's works.

"The destiny of the Picasso painting depends on the outcome of judicial investigations," Culture Minister Dario Franceschini was quoted as saying in Italy's daily newspaper La Repubblica newspaper.

Investigators will now try to determine whether the retiree is the painting's rightful owner.

jlw/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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