Henri Matisse Painting Worth $3M Stolen From Venezuela Museum Returned After A Decade

Matisse painting
Authorities show the box containing a painting of French master Henri Matisse, known as "Odalisque in Red Pants" (Odalisque a la Culotte Rouge), to the media at Maiquetia International Airport in Caracas July 7, 2014. Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

A painting by French artist Henri Matisse, estimated to be worth about $3 million, was handed back to Venezuela by U.S. officials on Monday, more than a decade after it was stolen from a museum in Caracas.

The painting, “Odalisque in Red Pants,” which shows a topless woman sitting in front of a wall, was reportedly recovered after a July 2012 undercover operation at a Miami Beach hotel. According to Reuters, the 1925 artwork was stolen in 2002 from the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art, while Associated Press reported that it was stolen in 2000. The painting’s disappearance came to light only in 2003 because the thieves had replaced the original with a fake one.

"The work is in extraordinary condition, with only slight imperfections on the edges, but it is fine," Joel Espinoza, an official with Venezuela's attorney general's office, said, according to BBC.

During the undercover operation in 2012, a couple, Pedro Marcuello Guzman, 48, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 52, reportedly tried to sell the painting for $740,000 to police, admitting that it was stolen. The two were reportedly arrested and sent to jail for attempting to sell the stolen painting.

According to Reuters, which cited the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Lazo was released in January while Guzman is still in custody and is expected to be released later this year.

The painting will reportedly be returned to the Caracas museum, which purchased it in 1981 from the Marlborough Gallery in New York for $400,000, and is expected to be on display in another two weeks.

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