Picasso treasure trove'

A retired electrician in southern France who worked for Pablo Picasso says he has hundreds of previously unknown works by the artist. The treasure trove of 271 pieces includes lithographs, cubist paintings, notebooks and a watercolor and is said to be worth about $ 80 million. Anita Elash reports.

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A retired French electrician and his wife have come forward with what seems to be an art jackpot � 271 previously unknown works by Pablo Picasso . The works are said to be worth at least $80 million. The electrician says the works were a gift. But Picasso's heirs say that is extremely unlikely.

The cache of art work dates from the beginning of Picasso's career in 1900 through to 1932. It includes lithographs, portraits, watercolors and sketches, and nine Cubist collages that could be worth $40 million by themselves. Vincent Noce, the art correspondent for the French newspaper Liberation, which first reported the discovery, says the works � in particular, the collages � are valuable for their historical significance.

�In 1915, Picasso he was doing all sorts of experiments. He would cut pieces of paper or cardboard or even cloth and try to make a sort of paper sculpture,� Noce says. �And these are very, very rare. Because most of them have been destroyed when he moved from workshop to workshop.�

Experts say the works appear to be geniune. John Richardson, a friend and biographer of Picasso, says he believes he saw some of the pieces when Picasso shipped them from Paris to the south of France in the mid-1950s.

He says that he spent a couple of days sitting on the floor with Picasso, sorting through portfolios.

�You never knew what was going to come out of them,� says Richardson. Out of one would come nothing but sheets of old paper. Another one would have engravings by some other painter. Then you'd get very early portraits that Picasso had done of all his friends in Barcelona, and it was a fantastic lucky dip and he hadn't seen much of this stuff for ages.�

The newspaper Liberation says the works came to light in September when the retired electrician, Pierre Le Guennec brought some of the works to Picasso's son, Claude. Le Guennec said he had stored the artwork in a trunk in his garage in the Cote d'Azur region, and wanted to get it authenticated. Shortly after that, Claude Picasso filed suit against Le Guennec, accusing him of theft.

Liberation reports that Le Guennec worked for Picasso and once installed a security system for him. Le Guennec's wife told the Associated Press, �We aren't thieves. .. This was a gift.�

Picasso's son Claude says that's not plausible. He says Picasso was generous with his work but always dedicated and signed his gifts because he knew people might want to sell them.