Greek police announced they had recovered a priceless Picasso painting personally donated by the Spanish master to the Greek people, almost a decade after it was stolen from the National Gallery in Athens.
But during a subsequent press conference, officers let the artwork— created in 1939— drop to the floor. To make matters worse, the painting was handled by officers with bare hands and not with cotton gloves, which is mandatory for old works on paper to protect from oils in the skin.
Footage from the event showed the painting slide off its perch, with an official quickly picking it up from the floor and putting it back.
“Head of a Woman,” gifted by Pablo Picasso to Greece in 1949, was recovered in rural Keratea, 28 miles from Athens.
Police said a 49-year-old builder had confessed to stealing the Picasso, and two other paintings, in 2012 during a bold heist.
The painting had a personal inscription by Picasso on the back — “For the Greek people, a tribute by Picasso.”
The artist had given the cubist painting to the Greek state in recognition of the country’s resistance to Nazi Germany during a painful 1941-44 occupation.
“This painting is of particular importance and sentimental value to the Greek people, as it was personally dedicated by the great painter to the Greek people for their fight against fascist and Nazi forces,” Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said.
Another painting stolen in the same heist in January 2012, ‘Stammer Windmill’ by Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, was also found.
Immediately after the snafu at Greek police headquarters, the Greek internet began trolling the police for mishandling the painting and allowing it to drop on the floor.
Plaisio, an office supply company, created an ad campaign that portrayed the Picasso painting on an easel with the words “We support whatever has value.” The company added a hashtag, which has gone viral on Twitter in Greece, that says “It will never fall.”
Another funny poke at the police which has been shared thousands of times on Twitter and Facebook is a cartoon that shows the painting on a table at police headquarters with a souvlaki with tzatziki spilling out of the top, a frappe coffee and other items laying on top, with a caption “Hey Bobby, grab the Picasso so we can show it to the journalists.”
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