At Large  January 23, 2024  Rebecca Schiffman

Belgian Police Find Stolen Picasso and Chagall Paintings

Courtesy Parquet of Namur

Pablo Picasso’s Tête, which was stolen in 2010, and found last week by Belgian police.

In 2010, thieves entered a home in Tel Aviv taking paintings by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall (together valued at $900,000) along with over $680,000 worth of jewelry. This month, the Belgian police recovered the two paintings in the basement of a home in Antwerp, Belgium and returned them to the original owner. The jewels, however, remain missing. 

Investigators had been working on this case for over a decade for the Israeli collector from the Herzikovich family, when a tip came in that a Belgian resident in Namur was trying to sell two valuable paintings, a Picasso and a Chagall. They first worked to confirm that the paintings being offered were the works stolen in 2010 – Picasso’s Tête (1971) and Chagall’s L’homme en prière (1970). After gaining the approval of an investigating judge, the Namur police carried out a months-long investigation of the suspect.

Courtesy Parquet of Namur

Chagall's, L’homme en prière, which was stolen in 2010, and recently found by Belgian police. 

They monitored his habits, movements, and relationships in order to verify that he was in possession of the stolen paintings. In 2023, they confirmed that the suspect had the works. According to The Guardian, the suspect has been identified in the police report as a 68-year old Israeli man who was a luxury watch dealer called “Daniel Z.”

On Wednesday, January 10, they obtained a search warrant and raided the suspect’s home, but were unable to find the paintings, though they did find a large sum of money. The police then questioned the suspect and he although admitted to possessing the stolen works, he refused to disclose where they were. The next day, he was charged with and arrested for handling stolen goods. 

The team decided to widen their search outside of Namur to greater Belgium, including Brussels and Antwerp. In Antwerp, according to The Guardian, there was a building on their radar that previously housed an art dealership that was also linked in the past to cases of stolen art. When the investigators went to the building last Friday, they found the paintings in a cellar, both unharmed and in great condition. They were stored in wooden boxes with screwed lids, and were found in their original frames. 

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