The Catalan police, the Mossos d’Esquadra, have recovered two 100-year-old charcoal drawings by surrealist master Salvador Dalí valued at €300,000, and returned them to their owners, they announced on Friday.
In recovering the drawings, the Mossos also dismantled a criminal group led by three brothers in their 50s who specialised in stealing artworks, in an operation that began in January 2022. The three men had been arrested in May 2022.
The charcoal drawings by Dalí date back to 1922, when he was 18, to illustrate a book about a local area called ‘Les Gracies de l’Emporda’ (‘The Charms of Emporda’). The drawings have been authenticated by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation.
The three brothers arrested last year had allegedly been operating in wealthy Barcelona areas, choosing their targets after days of surveillance, then breaking in when the owners were away, usually at weekends. Two accomplices were also arrested.
The Dalí artworks were stolen from an upmarket neighbourhood of Barcelona in January 2022, the Mossos said. At least seven other thefts in neighbourhoods in Barcelona were also carried out, as well as Sant Cugat del Vallès, Rubí, and Premià de Mar in Catalonia.
Unlike other thieves, they were very selective about the items they would steal, taking only those that appeared to be of value by known artists, such as Dalí.
Police also recovered three art pieces that could be by Joan Miró but have yet to be authenticated, 55 luxury watches, various coin collections, expensive pens, and other valuable items.
In addition to recovering the art, the agents last year also dismantled a lithography forgery workshop in Badalona, just north of Barcelona, that used to forge the work of Dalí and Picasso.
Police found their forgeries advertised on a website that has since been shut down and over 500 prints were confiscated.
Their falsified materials were sold for €500 to €1,000 each and distributed in 12 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Switzerland, Chile, and China, the Mossos said.
Resolem una investigació relacionada amb el robatori a Barcelona de dues obres d’art de l’artista Salvador Dalí valorades en 300.000 euros i les retornen als seus propietaris. Col·laborem amb @MuseuDali per verificar l’autenticitat de les peces sostretes https://t.co/zkgoOtbLiO pic.twitter.com/nPXcf0kTHa— Mossos (@mossos) February 17, 2023