12 detained in Paris over stolen painting

AP News
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Posted: Dec 02, 2009 4:21 PM

French police detained 12 people in a sweep of a respected Paris auction house Wednesday after finding a stolen Courbet painting worth euro900,000 ($1.3 million) at an employee's house.

Police raids on the Hotel Drouot, its warehouses and homes of employees uncovered other small artworks believed to have been stolen, a police official said.

Twelve people _ an auctioneer, eight commission agents and three of their family members _ were detained and questioned Wednesday by investigators from the agency for fighting art trafficking. Two were later released, the official said. The official was not authorized to be publicly named because the investigation is ongoing.

The 2004 theft of the Courbet painting, "The Wave," prompted a formal judicial inquiry.

Police found it in the house of one of the commission agents, the official said. No other details, including about how and where the painting was stolen, were immediately available.

The stolen Courbet was one of several paintings by the convention-smashing, 19th-century realist master with a stormy ocean theme.

The Hotel Drouot is a large auction house in a sprawling 19th-century building in central Paris. It auctions fine art and antiquities, as well as such objects as pieces of the Eiffel Tower and mime Marcel Marceau's top hat.