Matisse painting worth around $3 mln returned to Venezuela
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[July 08, 2014]
CARACAS (Reuters) - A painting believed
to be a 1925 work by French artist Henri Matisse worth around $3
million was returned to Venezuela from the United States on Monday
more than a decade after it was stolen from a museum in Caracas,
Venezuela's government said.
The "Odalisque in Red Pants" (Odalisque a la culotte rouge)is
thought to have been stolen from the Caracas Museum of
Contemporary Art in 2002 but its disappearance went unnoticed
for some time because the thieves put a fake in its place.
"It's generally well preserved," Culture Minister Fidel
Barbarito told local television from Caracas airport where a
white box containing the painting was shown upon arrival after a
court in south Florida authorized its return.
"This is another achievement of the Bolivarian revolution, of a
government in touch with the arts," the minister said, referring
to the country's 15-year-old socialist government that began in
1999 with the election of the late Hugo Chavez.
Barbarito said the painting would undergo a delicate 72-hour
"acclimatization process" and be back on display at the museum
in around two weeks. There was damage to the edges of the work
but not the painting itself, he said.
The painting was recovered in July 2012 in an undercover FBI
operation at a Miami Beach hotel where Pedro Marcuello Guzman,
48, a Cuban living in Miami, offered the work to undercover
police for about $740,000, admitting it had been stolen.
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It was retrieved after his accomplice, Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas
Lazo, 52, of Mexico City, arrived from Mexico carrying the painting
in a protective tube.
Ornelas was released from prison in January while Marcuello is due
for release later this year, the Federal Bureau of Prisons website
The Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art, formerly the Sofia Imber
Museum, purchased the painting from the Marlborough Gallery in New
York in 1981 for $400,000.
(Reporting by Peter Murphy and Diego Ore; Additional reporting by
David Adams in Miami; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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