A retired French electrician and his wife have come forward with 271 undocumented, never-before-seen works by the artist. The couple for years squirrelled away the staggering trove — which is believed to be authentic — in their garage on the French Riviera, said Picasso Administration lawyer Jean-Jacques Neuer. The vast collection is estimated to be worth at least €60 million (nearly $81 million Cdn), he said on Monday.
Shortly after that meeting, the lawyer filed suit on behalf of Picasso's heirs for alleged illegal receipt of the works — and police investigators are looking into how Le Guennec and his wife, Danielle, came by the pictures.
"This was a gift," Danielle Le Guennec told The Associated Press by phone from their home in the town of Mouans-Sartoux, near the tourist Riviera hotspot of Antibes. "We aren't thieves. We didn't do anything wrong."
Claude Picasso, quoted in Liberation, noted that his father was known for his generosity — but that he always dedicated, dated and signed his gifts, as he knew that some recipients might try to sell the works one day.
To some, the emergence of the works by the 20th century's most renowned artist is akin to opening a time capsule, or a discovery on par with the recent publication of Mark Twain's 100-year-dormant autobiography.
The Picasso estate administrators, who pored over the works for hours this fall, considered that the works might be fakes. But they eventually ruled out that prospect because of the expertise, variety of techniques and the use of certain numbers in the works that no faker was likely to have known, Liberation said.
Police on Oct. 5 raided the couple's home, questioned them and hauled off the works — which are now held by France's official agency in charge of battling the illegal traffic of cultural items.
The works, which were kept in a trunk, didn't appear to be much to her untrained eye, she said. "But even if this was a little jot of the pencil, it did come from the master."