By Stefanos Evripidou
POLICE want to send investigators to France to take statements from experts on the authenticity or not of the stolen painting believed to be the work of 19th century French Impressionist Edgar Degas.
Investigations into the theft of the painting, which as an estimated value of €6m, from the house of a pensioner in Apeshia in Limassol took an interesting turn after Interpol informed Cypriot police that the painting might be a fake.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides yesterday said that the authorities were informed by Interpol that experts from a French company dealing specifically with French Impressionist artists came to Cyprus last year to examine the painting, on the owner’s request.
Following an initial examination, the evaluators left open the possibility that the work might be a fake. The 70-year-old owner insists, however, that the artwork is an original Degas inherited by him from his grandmother who lived in Paris.
Angelides said police are seeking the green light from the Attorney-general to send police investigators to France to take statements from this specific company but also to seek assistance from other experts specialising in the work of Degas to help establish whether they are dealing with the real deal or not.
Angelides said police were informed by local experts that there are specific tests you can do on the paint, on the signature etc. to verify its authenticity.
“To do that, you need to have the painting,” he said, noting that at present this is not possible.
The painting is believed to be Degas’ pastel on paper, titled Dancer Adjusting Her Shoe, approximately 47cm by 61cm in size and dated late 19th century.
In the meantime, the police are continuing their investigations, putting the work on a list of stolen artwork to inform other European countries, said the spokesman.
Four people are in remand in relation to the case, three Greek Cypriots, aged 47, 48 and 53, and a 55-year-old Russian. A fifth man, a 44-year-old taxi driver was released on Monday.
The painting was reported stolen by its owner on September 29 along with a metal safe which contained seven gold watches, three pairs of gold opera glasses and 20 cufflinks, estimated to worth around €162.000 in total.
The owner had been at a scheduled meeting to negotiate the sale of his house and part of his art collection at the time of the theft. The Degas was not part of the deal.
Police said the Russian man had shown interest in buying the art collector’s estate along with some of the paintings in his collection and that a viewing had been arranged two weeks before the painting was stolen.