The owners of the Paris gallery Belle et Belle were sentenced to prison and barred from dealing art for five years after a judge in France found them guilty of offering dozens of stolen Picasso prints and drawings, according to the Art Newspaper. Through the ruling, Belle et Belle will also be dissolved.
The gallery’s owners, Anne and Herbert Pfeffer, were found guilty on November 18 of buying, and subsequently concealing, art that was stolen from two of Picasso’s daughters, the gallerist Aimé Maeght and Jacqueline Picasso.
The verdict brings to a close an investigation that began over 10 years ago, when it was revealed that Frédéric “Freddy” Munchenbach, a handyman employed by both Picasso and Maeght, had used keys to their respective homes to snatch the pictures on multiple occasions between 2006 and 2008.
According to the Art Newspaper, at least 553 drawings and original prints by Picasso, worth more than $13.8 million, were stolen from the sisters, who live next door to each other near the Parc Montsouris in Paris.
In 2011, Muchenbach was detained for four months in relation to the thefts. Despite the fact that he confessed to the crimes, he was ultimately released because the statute of limitations on those crimes had come to an end.
During the trial, the Pfeffers denied any wrongdoing, but the court ruled that the couple were “well aware” that pictures they sold or hid were part of the trove of works stolen by the handyman. Anne and Herbert will serve suspended sentences of two years and one year, respectively.