Nearly 300 original works that a retiree claims Pablo Picasso’s wife gave him 50 years ago must now be handed back to the artist’s heirs.

Pierre Le Guennec, 75, a retired electrician, and his wife Danielle, 71, were given a suspended two-year prison sentence of by a French court on March 20 for handling stolen goods. They were also ordered to hand over the 271 works, estimated at €60mil to €120mil (RM239mil to RM477mil), to the heirs of Picasso, who died in 1973.

Le Guennec, employed by Picasso in his last home in Mougins in southeast France, told the court in Grasse that the artist’s last wife Jacqueline Picasso offered him the box containing unsigned collages, sketches and paintings with the consent of her husband in either 1971 or 1972. 

“One night, Madame called me in the hallway as I was leaving and told me, ‘This is for you’,” he testified. 

Pierre Le Guennec (centre) and his wife Danielle are surrounded by the media following the verdict of their trial at the courthouse in Grasse, southeastern France. – Reuters

The box then apparently sat in Le Guennec’s garage for nearly 40 years before the couple brought it to Paris to be appraised in 2010. Upon discovery of the cache, however, Picasso’s heirs smelled a rat and contacted authorities who opened an investigation, which ended with the court dismissing Le Guennec’s claims.

One of Picasso’s sons, Claude Ruiz Picasso, says he’s satisfied with the ruling, adding that the collection, believed to have been created between 1900 and 1932, includes important works and can now be exhibited.

“He’s got a lot of cheek to try and make us swallow this story,” Maya Picasso, one of the artist’s daughters, told reporters. 

What do you think? Is Le Guennec telling the truth or did he try to pull a fast one? – Reuters