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Picasso Paintings Put Spotlight on Art Theft, Disputed Ownership

Image: FRANCE-SPAIN-BRITAIN-ART-CUSTOMS-CRIME-PICASSO-FILES

(FILES) A handout picture taken on July 31, 2015 and released on August 3, 2015 by the French Customs office, shows the seized painting 'Head of a young woman' by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, at the Customs offices in Calvi, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica. A Picasso worth 25 million euros (27.4 million USD) and considered a cultural treasure by Spanish authorities who had barred it from being exported was seized from a boat owned by Spanish Santander banking group and docked at Corsica, French authorities said August 4. The owner of the painting, Spanish banker Jaime Botin, suspected of attempting to illegally export the artwork seized by French customs, argues that the painting is not Spanish but British, his lawyers said in a statement on August 7, 2015. The painting will be transfered to a museum in Madrid on August 11, 2015, Spanish police said. AFP PHOTO / HO / FRENCH CUSTOMS OFFICE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / FRENCH CUSTOMS OFFICE " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - TO ILLUSTRATE THE NEWS STORY AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTIONHO/AFP/Getty Images HO / AFP - Getty Images

Two distinct Pablo Picasso paintings, one from his Rose Period and the other a Cubism work, threw the intrigue of stolen art and of antiquities with disputed ownership into the spotlight this week.

The Picasso masterpieces, “Head of a Young Woman,” and "La Coiffeuse" (The Hairdresser), are considered national treasures of Spain and France, respectively.

Image: SPAIN-FRANCE-ART-CRIME-PICASSO
Spanish Civil Guards carry a box containing Picasso's painting "Head of a Young Woman" at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid after being transferred from the French island of Corsica, on August 11, 2015. The Picasso worth more than 25 million euros and owned by the Spanish banker Jaime Botin, was transferred to Reina Sofia museum today after it was seized from a yacht on July 31 by French customs agents who accused the painting's owner of trying to illegally export it to Switzerland. AFP PHOTO / GERARD JULIENGERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images GERARD JULIEN / AFP - Getty Images

The first, valued at $27 million, was transferred this week to Madrid’s Reina’s Sofia Museum which houses Picasso's large anti-war masterpiece "Guernica," a police statement said.

U.S officials plan to turn over the second painting, "La Coiffeuse," at an event on Thursday.

"Head of a Young Woman" had been smuggled out of Spain and was taken to a yacht on the French island of Corsica, officials said this week.

On July 31, French custom agents seized the painting from a British-flagged yacht off Corsica, halting what they said was an attempt to export it to Switzerland.

Corsican authorities said in a statement on August 4 that they had been tipped off about an attempted smuggling of the prized painting to Switzerland.

The work is owned by Jaime Botín, Spanish billionaire heir and art collector who was planning to sell it elsewhere, but since it is considered a national treasure in the native country, it is not allowed to be sent abroad without government permission, according to reports.

Botín has been trying since 2012 to obtain rights to export the painting, but the culture ministry refused because there is no similar work on Spanish territory from the same period of Picasso’s life.

During his 1904 to 1906 Rose Period, Picasso produced works with happier themes than those of his blue period where his themes were conveyed as somber and daunting tones. It is an important period in art history.

"The painting will be stored in a warehouse of the museum until we know more about its destiny," a museum spokesman declared.

Picasso's “La Coiffeuse” painting from the Cubism period of 1909 to 1912 is valued at 15 million dollars. It was discovered missing in 2001 and was later recovered in December 2014 when it was shipped from Belgium to the U.S. in a FedEx package marked as "art craft." Cubism was developed by Picasso and Georges Braque and is distinguished by its cubes in the artwork.

RELATED: Picasso Stolen from Paris Museum Seized In U.S.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will return “La Coiffeuse” to France at the French Embassy in Washington, DC on Thursday. ICE spokeswoman Sara Rodriguez declined to comment before a news conference about the return of the painting.

However in February, Loretta Lynch, then-U.S. Attorney for New York's Eastern District, petitioned for the paintings return to France. According to reports at the time, the painting had been smuggled out of a storeroom of a Paris museum.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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