A painting that Romanian prosecutors said on Sunday might be a work by Pablo Picasso stolen in 2012 is more likely a forgery created as a publicity stunt, Dutch media reported.
State broadcaster NOS cited author Frank Westerman, who helped locate the painting in Romania’s Tulcea county after an anonymous tip, turning it over to Romanian police on Saturday.
Westerman told NOS on Sunday he had received an e-mail from a Belgian theatre company which is staging a play about a famed art forger. He said the painting he recovered appears to have been a forgery hidden as part of an elaborate hoax.
Separately a former curator of the museum that owned the real “Tête d’Arlequin”, or Harlequin’s Head, told Dutch television that based on photos he had seen of the painting that was found, it appeared to be a forgery.
Romanian prosecutors, who said Sunday they were trying to verify the work’s authenticity, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The BERLIN theatre company in Antwerp, Belgium, which is putting on the play about forgery, said in a carefully worded tweet that it had “brought back” Tête d’Arlequin in a new frame.
On its website it said it would “be back with more details on this issue within the next few days” and listed links to reports of the discovery of the painting.
The real Picasso was stolen from an exhibition in Rotterdam in one of the art world’s most dramatic heists. The other paintings taken were Matisse’s “La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune”, Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”, Gauguin’s “Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte”, Meijer De Haan’s “Autoportrait” and Lucian Freud’s “Woman with Eyes Closed”.
A Romanian man and several accomplices were convicted of the theft in 2013, but none of the artworks have been recovered. Romanian experts believed at least three of them were burned in an attempt to destroy evidence.