Miami Couple Sentenced for Missing Matisse

Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, of Miami and Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, of Mexico City, were sentenced in Miami to 33 months and 21 months in prison for attempting to sell a stolen painting to FBI agents by the French Modernist Henri Matisse, ten years after it was taken from a Venezuelan museum.

Art collectors of ArtKabinett social network know that art crime rarely pays.

The two pleaded guilty in October to charges of conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property.

The FBI arrested the pair at a hotel in Miami Beach in July 2012 after they passed the painting, shown here, to the FBI. It was valued at $3 million {see AK Files 20 July 2012}.

The painting, which disappeared from the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum in Caracas, Venezuela was titled, ‘Odalisque in Red Pants’ and was painted by the master in 1925.

It was purchased by the museum from the prominent Marlborough Gallery, in New York, for $400,000, in 1981.

It was out on loan to an exhibition in Spain in 1997 and soon after its return to Caracas, it was discovered that someone had replaced it with a crude copy of the masterpiece.

Founded in 1973, the Sofia Imber Contemporary Art Museum of Caracas (MACCSI) is testament to the determination of Sofia Imber who, with the help of the Centro Simon Bolivar and others, created and gave the capital a magnificent artistic legacy.

Inaugurated on the 20th February 1974, it is one of the most important museums in Caracas covering both national and international artists in the genres of painting, sculpture, drawing, cinema, video and photography.

Investigators said Marcuello negotiated a deal to sell it to FBI undercover agents for $740,000 and then arranged for Ornelas to fly the painting to Miami from Mexico.

The masterpiece was registered on the Art Loss register and of a high enough profile to be unsaleable on the open market.