But is it art? Pranksters plant missing ‘Picasso’ in Romania

Stolen paintings from the Rotterdam Kunsthal Museum is presented during a press conference at the National History Museum of Romania in Bucharest in this August 2013 photo, which includes Picasso’s ‘Harlequin Head.’ (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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But is it art? Pranksters plant missing ‘Picasso’ in Romania

  • Writer was the victim of a ‘performance’ by two Belgian directors in Antwerp
  • Supposed tip-off was part of a project called ‘True Copy’ dedicated to the notorious Dutch forger Geert Jan Jansen

THE HAGUE: A writer who thought she had found a painting by Pablo Picasso stolen in an infamous art heist six years ago said Sunday she was the victim of a “publicity stunt,” Dutch media reported.
Picasso’s “Harlequin Head” was one of seven celebrated paintings snatched from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam in 2012 during a daring robbery local media dubbed “the theft of the century.”
The artworks by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, Matisse and Lucian Freud have not been seen since.
But Dutch writer Mira Feticu, who wrote a novel based on the brazen heist, thought she had uncovered the piece after she was sent an anonymous letter around 10 days ago “with instructions regarding the place where the painting was hidden” in Romania.
Feticu, of Romanian origin, said the tip-off led her to a forest in the east of the country where she dug up an artwork wrapped in plastic.
Romanian authorities, who were handed the canvas on Saturday night, said that it “might be” Picasso’s painting, which is estimated to be worth €800,000 ($915,000).
However, on Sunday night Feticu told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS that she was the victim of a “performance” by two Belgian directors in Antwerp.
Feticu said she received an email from the Belgian duo explaining that the letter was part of a project called “True Copy,” dedicated to the notorious Dutch forger Geert Jan Jansen, whose fakes flooded the art collections of Europe and beyond until he was caught in 1994.
“Part of this performance was prepared in silence in the course of the past few months, with a view to bringing back Picasso’s ‘Tete d’Arlequin’,” Bart Baele and Yves Degryse wrote on their website.
Their production company “currently wishes to abstain from any comment” because it first wants to speak to Feticu, the statement said.
“We will be back with more details on this issue within the next few days.”
Four Romanians were jailed in 2014 for the heist and ordered to pay €18 million ($20.5 million at today’s rates) to the work’s insurers.
One of the group, Olga Dogaru, told investigators she had burned the paintings in her stove in the sleepy village of Carcaliu to protect her son, Radu, when he could not sell them. She later retracted the statement.
Investigators have previously said the paintings were destroyed after the thieves failed to find a buyer.
Specialists from Romania’s museum of natural history examined ashes from a stove in Dogaru’s home and found traces of at least three oil paintings, based on lead- and zinc-based pigments in blue, yellow, red and green that are no longer used, director Ernest Oberlaender-Tarnoveanu said.
The thieves had slipped into the Dutch museum during the night of October 15-16, 2012 and got away with the works which despite their value were not protected by alarms.


El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

Evelyn Hernandez (C) is surrounded by activists after being released from the women's Readaptation Center, in Ilopango, El Salvador, on February 9, 2019, where she was serving a 30-year-sentence for aggravated homicide after her baby died at birth. (AFP)
Updated 16 February 2019
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El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

  • Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR: A Salvadoran court on Friday freed Evelyn Hernandez, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she gave birth to a stillborn baby at home.
After serving 33 months for aggravated homicide, 20-year-old Hernandez smiled as she was reunited with her parents and a brother in the capital San Salvador.
The court in Cojutepeque, east of the capital, ruled that she will be retried but while living at home. A hearing has been set for April 4, with a new judge, her lawyer Angelica Rivas said.
El Salvador has an extremely strict abortion ban. Hernandez gave birth in the makeshift bathroom of her home in the central Cuscatlan region. She was 18 years old and eight months pregnant.
She said her son was stillborn but was convicted of murdering him, abortion rights group ACDATEE said.
ACDATEE cited a pathologist’s report which it said indicated the baby had choked to death while still in the womb.
Prosecutors argued Hernandez was culpable for not having sought prenatal care, ACDATEE said.
The group said Hernandez had not known she was pregnant and gave birth on the toilet after feeling abdominal pains. She got pregnant as the result of a rape, which she did not report out of fear because her family had been threatened.
Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador. Campaigners say some have been jailed after suffering miscarriages.
The country’s abortion law made international headlines in 2013 when a sick woman was forbidden from aborting a fetus which developed without a brain.
Under a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Salvadoran state eventually authorized her to undergo a cesarean section. The baby died shortly after the procedure.