An art crimes investigator in the Netherlands said Tuesday that he had recovered Pablo Picasso’s 1938 painting “Portrait of Dora Maar,” which was stolen from the yacht of its Saudi Arabian owner in the south of France in 1999.
Arthur Brand, an independent art detective based in Amsterdam, handed the painting over to an insurance company two weeks ago, he said. Mr. Brand had been trying to track down the Picasso painting since 2015, but all of his leads went nowhere.
Earlier this month, he said, he was contacted by “two persons with good contacts in the underworld,” who said the painting was in the Netherlands.
“They told me, ‘It’s in the hands of a businessman who got it as payment, and he doesn’t know what to do with it,’” Mr. Brand said in an interview. “I talked to the two guys and we made a plan to get it out of his hands.”
The two contacts, whom Mr. Brand declined to name, dropped the painting off at Mr. Brand’s house in Amsterdam in two plastic garbage bags, he said. “They delivered it right to my door,” he said.
Mr. Brand said they drank a toast to the painting and, after that, he hung the Picasso on his wall. “The urge was too great; I couldn’t resist,” he said. The next day, a Picasso specialist from the Pace Gallery in New York flew to the Netherlands to check the painting, and verified its authenticity, Mr. Brand said. (A spokesman for Pace declined to comment.)
Mr. Brand turned the painting over to a retired British detective, Dick Ellis, the founder of Scotland Yard’s art and antiquities squad, who is now a representative for an insurance company that Mr. Brand declined to name. Mr. Ellis, who did not respond to requests for comment, told Agence France-Presse, “There is no doubt that this is the stolen Picasso.”
The subject of Picasso’s portrait, Dora Maar, was a French photographer, painter, poet and one of the artist’s lovers. He portrayed her in many paintings and drawings. This one, painted in 1938, was apparently one of his favorites, which he kept in his private collection until he died.
Mr. Brand said that was part of the reason that it had been difficult to recover. “It was never published, there were almost no pictures of it, and it had never been in a museum,” he said. “Picasso is one of the most stolen artists.”
The owner in 1999 was a Saudi Arabian billionaire, Sheikh Abdul Mohsen, who had it on his luxury yacht at Antibes, France, when it was stolen. Mr. Brand said it probably came into the Netherlands as “payment for drugs or for arms deals.”
Mr. Brand said that he will probably receive no payment for recovering the artwork. “At the time there was a reward offered of 400,000 euros and I don’t know if the reward will be paid,” he said. “If there is a reward, it should go to the people who brought it in. My reward was to have a Picasso on my wall for one night. I can tell you, it was great.”