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Art heist

May 20, 2010

Five classic paintings, including a Picasso, were stolen from the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris on Thursday. The lost pieces together have a value of some 500 million euros.

Police pack up the frames of the stolen paintings
Police remain baffled by the theftImage: AP

A lone thief in Paris has made away with five classic works of early 20th century art on Wednesday night, including works by Picasso and Matisse, in what Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe has called "an intolerable attack on the universal cultural heritage in Paris."

The five pieces were stolen in an overnight heist from the National Museum of Modern Art. Museum staff discovered the paintings were missing when they opened their doors on Thursday morning.

The thief apparently broke into the museum through a window. Investigators have cordoned off the museum, which is located across the Seine River from the Eiffel Tower in one of the city's most tourist-frequented areas.

The stolen works are Pablo Picasso's cubist Dove with Green Peas, Henri Matisse's Pastoral, Georges Braque's Olive Tree near Estaque, Amadeo Modigliani's Woman with a Fan and Ferdinand Leger's Still Life with Candlestick.

Valued at 100 million euros

Police said earlier that the paintings were worth about 500 million euros ($617 million), but art experts have since disputed that claim.

"The Picasso might be worth 40 to 50 million euros, the Braque 10 to 20," said Didier Rykner, editor of the specialist magazine The Art Tribune.

"But in any case, we're talking about a theoretical value, they don't have a market value, because you couldn't openly sell them. They're too well known."

Museum officials have now valued the stolen paintings at about 100 million euros ($123.7 million).

Editor: Martin Kuebler