Stolen Matisse Painting Returning Home To Venezuela

A painting by Henri Matisse, stolen from a Venezuelan museum 13 years ago, will soon be returned to its rightful home.

The 1925 Matisse artwork, Odalisque in Red Pants, was stolen from Venezuela’s Caracas museum in 2000. Valued at approximately $3 million, the painting was removed and replaced with a counterfeit copy during the theft, according to authorities.

The Associated Press writes that the original painting was discovered in July during an attempt to sell the stolen artwork at a Miami hotel. The couple initiating the transaction were unaware that their potential buyers were undercover FBI agents.

Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo attempted to sell the stolen Matisse for a reported $740,000. Court records indicate that Lazo was responsible for bringing the artwork from Mexico City to Miami.

In October the couple pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the undercover operation and were sentenced last month in a US federal court. Guzman is slated to serve two years and nine months while Lazo will serve a lesser sentence of one year and nine months.

According to El Universal, plans are in place to return the stolen Odalisque in Red Pants to the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art. In the coming weeks the United States will continue to verify the painting’s authenticity and complete the necessary documents for transferring the artwork to Venezuela.

Raul Grioni, president of Venezuela’s Cultural Patrimony Institute, expects the Matisse to be delivered within the next three to five weeks:

“They (US authorities) said that the trial had ended. Those found guilty had been convicted. We were duly informed that the painting was ready to go back. The US Government took this very seriously.”

Police never identified the masterminds behind the 2010 heist in which the Matisse painting was stolen.