Picasso sale off after cache revealed

Picasso's Paul en costume de toreador, left, Paloma a la poupee, right The sale was to have included a number of sketches and minor Picasso works

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A Paris auctioneer has postponed a sale of paintings by Picasso that he gave to his chauffeur after a further cache of the artist's works was revealed.

Thursday's sale was to have featured works given to driver Maurice Bresnu.

Meanwhile, police have confiscated 271 pieces that electrician Pierre Le Guennec claims Picasso gave to him.

The sale was called off because of a bizarre twist - Mr Le Guennec is an heir to the late Mr Bresnu and stood to profit from Thursday's planned sale.

Last month, retired electrician Mr Le Guennec revealed he had a treasure trove of 271 pieces, including lithographs, cubist painting, notebooks and a watercolour thought to be worth about 60m euros (£50.2m).

He installed burglar alarms at a number of the artist's homes in France in the three years before Picasso's death in 1973.

'"Illegal possession'

While Mr Le Guennec said the works were gifts, Picasso's family have dismissed his explanation saying the artist would not have given so many works away to one person.

Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (file image from October 1971) Mr Le Guennec's collection includes a portrait of the late artist's first wife, Olga

They have filed a legal case against Mr Le Guennec claiming "illegal possession" of the paintings.

Police have seized the art as part of their investigation.

Picasso's chauffeur Maurice Bresnu, meanwhile, is well known to art scholars.

Some works from Mr Bresnu's Picasso collection have already been sold at auction in the 1990s.

Thursday's sale was to have included a number of sketches and minor Picasso works given to Mr Bresnu.

Start Quote

We can look at ourselves in the mirror every morning. We did nothing wrong - nothing, nothing”

End Quote Pierre Le Guennec's wife, Danielle

Pierre Blanchet, of auction house Drouot, said the sale was called off because of the surprising family connection.

Mr Le Guennec is the cousin of Mr Bresnu's late wife and is one of six heirs who would have made money from the auction.

He says he was given a trunk full of art which he kept virtually untouched for a number of years.

A lawyer for Picasso's estate said it was inconceivable that the artist would have given so much art away.

But Mr Le Guennec's wife, Danielle, told France's Europe 1 radio station: "We can look at ourselves in the mirror every morning.

"We did nothing wrong - nothing, nothing."

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