Almost a decade after Henri Matisse’s “Odalisque in Red Pants” was stolen from a Venezuelan museum, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recovered it from a Miami Beach Loews Hotel. They also arrested two people, Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami, and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of México City, who had tried to sell it for $740,000.
In 1981, the Caracas Contemporary Art Museum paid more than $400,000 for the Matisse painting of a bare-chested woman lounging in red pants.
Matisse is known for his vibrant use of color. Odalisques – oriental-themed paintings of partially clothed women reclining, standing or sitting, usually on beds – were a popular theme for the French artist in the 1920’s.
In 1997, the painting was lent to a Spanish exhibition, according to The Associated Press. After that, it remained in Caracas until it was stolen.
In 2002, the museum staff’s realized that what they thought was a multimillion-dollar painting hanging on a wall was actually a fake. That made museum and law enforcement officials believe the theft was an inside job.
The FBI offered few details about the recovery operation. But, they said Ornelas Lazo flew into Miami International Airport from México City on July 16, carrying a tube with the painting rolled up inside. She and Marcuello Guzman later met with two undercover agents posing as buyers at the hotel.