ATHENS – A painting by Pablo Picasso was among three valuable artworks stolen early Monday from Greece's National Gallery in Athens.
The thieves entered through a balcony at the back of the building in the national capital and stole three artworks shortly before 5:00am local time.
Stolen was "Woman's Head," a 1939 Picasso oil on canvas -- on the back of which was noted in French "for the Greek people, a tribute by Picasso" according to a photograph released by police.
The cubist bust was donated to Greece in 1949 in recognition of the Greeks' resistance to the Nazi occupation during WWII, according to daily newspaper, Kathimerini, which added recent international sales had seen similar Picassos sold for up to €6 million (U.S. $7.6 million).
"Mill," a 1905 oil painting of a windmill by Dutch abstract artist Piet Mondrian, was also stolen, along with a sketch of St. Diego de Alcala by 16th century Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia, better known as Moncalvo, the police said.
The security alarm was triggered by the raid, police said, and a guard saw the shadow of one of the thieves fleeing the scene. A fourth artwork -- another Mondrian oil painting -- was dropped by the thieves.
"I am very sorry because an artwork of huge value was stolen," Citizen's Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said, noting that the gallery's security arrangements were "non-existent."
The authorities did not specify the value of the artworks stolen, but Skai television said they were worth about €5.5 million (U.S. $7 million), AFP reported.
Police said the theft occurred on the final day of an exhibition titled "Unknown Treasures from the National Gallery Collections," which also included works by Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt. The gallery was due to close its doors for renovation work after the exhibition.