This morning at 4:52 two paintings were stolen from the National Gallery in Athens. One of the paintings, Woman’s Head was painted by Picasso in 1934 and is listed as being a gift to the museum by Picasso himself after an initiative by Roger Milliex and his wife, writer Tatiana Gritsi-Milliex in 1945. Milliex was the director of the French Institute in Athens and had asked French intellectuals and artists for an honorary donation to the Greek people for their heroic resistance during World War II, 1940-1944.
The musuem had just closed the exhibition Unknown Treasures from the National Gallery Collections and the timing of the theft appears to have been carefully planned as the museum had just closed for expansion and renovations for what would be assumed to be improved security. Marina Lambraki-Plaka, the Director of the museum writes,
We wished to bid our farewell to the old museum by displaying a selection of the important works scheduled to form part of the permanent display after the completion of the expansion project. With twice as large a display area, the new National Gallery – Alexandros Soutzos Museum will be able, not only better to preserve the artistic heritage of Greece in its collections, but also to mount exhibitions featuring a far larger number of works for the benefit of the public; a wider-ranging exhibition agenda, moreover, will be made possible.
The second painting at this time has not been identified, however it is believed to be by a Dutch painter and of significant value. Update: The second painting is believed to be by Mondrain and likely on of two early landscapes owned by the museum.