National Gallery in Athens, Greece

Two masterwork paintings recovered almost a decade after a 2012 art heist, according to Greek police.

In January 2012, “Woman’s Head” by Pablo Picasso and “Mill” by Piet Mondrian were stolen in a lightning quick raid on the National Gallery of Greece, in Athens. In less than seven minutes in the middle of the night, a burglar or burglars stripped the two oil paintings out of their frames and fled. They also took a 16th century pencil sketch by Italian artist Moncalvo, and attempted to take a second Mondrian. According to authorities, the thieves had disabled the Gallery’s alarm system and forced open a door at the back of the building. There was a guard, but he was distracted by a number of false alarms at other entry points in the building. He spotted one person fleeing, but wasn’t able to catch the person.

“Woman’s Head,” painted by Picasso in 1939, was gifted by the artist to the people of Greece in 1949, recognizing the country’s resistance against the Axis powers of WWII. It portrayed a bust of a woman wearing a white dress in the hyper-cubist style that made Picasso famous. “Mill” is an impressionist painting of a Dutch windmill, which Mondrian painted in 1905.

On Tuesday, June 29, Greek police reported that the two oil paintings had been recovered. They were found after a suspect in the burglary, a builder from Keratea, confessed to the theft. He directed the police to a riverbed near his home where he had hidden them recently, wrapped in plastic. They are reported as undamaged. Until only a few weeks ago, the two paintings were hidden in the suspect’s home.

The Moncalvo work, a pencil sketch of St. Diego de Alcala, was unfortunately not recovered. The suspect has attested that he destroyed it.

As yet, the thief has not given a motive for why he stole the work, which would have been difficult to sell without raising alarms.

Image: Alexandros Michailidis /