In 2010, burglars stole a pair of artworks by twentieth-century masters from a private collection in Israel. Fourteen years later, they’ve finally been located almost 2,000 miles away in Belgium. Tête by Pablo Picasso and L’homme en prière by Marc Chagall were worth around $900,000 when they were stolen from the house of the Herzikovich family in Tel Aviv. The perpetrators of the theft took the works and approximately $680,000 worth of jewelry. The Picasso is one of several abstract portraits created on April 10, 1971. It is made from crayon on board and was last on the market in 1992 when it sold at Christie’s New York for $77k w/p — part of an Impressionist & Modern Paintings sale. A similar work, made on the same day with charcoal, crayon, and watercolor on ruled notebook paper, was offered in 2021 at Standford Auctions in Phoenix. With an estimate range of $225k to $275k, the lot passed. The Chagall is very typical for the artist in showing Jewish themes. The painting shows a bearded Jewish man in the midst of prayer, wearing a tallit and tefillin, as seen by the black box on his head.
The stolen paintings’ rediscovery was set in motion when, in 2022, someone notified police in Belgium that a man in Namur was offering to sell the paintings. This man is a 68-year-old luxury watch dealer from Israel known only as Daniel. Last week, authorities searched his residence but could not locate the paintings. Daniel confessed to having the paintings but would not cooperate with police on their recovery. After further investigation, police searched a building in Antwerp that formerly housed an art gallery to which other stolen paintings were connected. Inside, police found both the Picasso and the Chagall packed in wooden boxes. Both were completely untouched, still in their original frames and had not suffered any damage. Daniel has been charged with possessing the stolen paintings, but it is unknown if he was involved in the initial theft. The collection of jewelry has yet to be found.