Pablo Picasso’s electrician has been accused of attempting to smear his former employer’s reputation in an appeal court in France.
Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle allege that the artist’s widow handed them a rubbish bag filled with works by Picasso following his death in an attempt to hide them from her stepson. Jacqueline Picasso is said to have asked Le Guennec to store between 15 and 17 rubbish bags containing 180 single pieces and a notebook of 91 drawings by Picasso including rare cubist collages and a work from his “blue period”. When she retrieved the bags from him some time later she gave Le Guennec one of them to keep in recognition of his devotion to the family. Le Guennec told the appeal court in Aix-en-Provence that Mrs Picasso had been having problems with her stepson Claude, and was perhaps attempting to prevent the works from being inventoried and subsequently inherited by him.
The testimony from the 77-year-old former handyman to the Picassos is a fresh take on the events that were said to have transpired following the artist’s death in 1973. Facing theft charges brought by the Picasso family last year the Le Guennecs told the court that both the artist and his wife had given them the disputed works while Picasso was still alive. Le Guennec stored them in his garage until 2010 when he attempted to have them authenticated by the Picasso Administration. It was at that point that the authorities seized the works and the Le Guennecs were tried and sentenced to two-year suspended prison terms for possession of stolen goods. Now the retired electrician claims that he had been afraid to tell the truth during last year’s trial for “fear of being accused, along with Madame, of stealing these bags”.
Lawyers for the Picassos have called Le Guennec’s new version of events a “staggering lie” and accuse him of trying to besmirch the family’s reputation. “How can someone think that she, who so admired her husband and his oeuvre, would have filled garbage bags with his drawings and other works?” asked Anne-Sophie Nardon, who is representing Jacqueline Picasso’s daughter. Despite only learning of the Le Guennec’s new version of events a few days ago lawyers for the defense have requested an investigation into how many of Picasso’s works might have “escaped the inventories”.
The verdict is expected on 16 December.