Brazilian police find stolen painting worth almost £50m under bed | Brazil

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Brazilian police find stolen painting worth almost £50m under bed | Brazil

A painting by one of Brazil’s most celebrated artists – the pioneering modernist Tarsila do Amaral – has been found under the bed of an alleged fraudster who was part of a multimillion pound art heist built around the false predictions of a bogus clairvoyant.

The artwork, worth an estimated 300m reais (£48m), was reportedly found in Rio on Wednesday morning during a police operation targeting a gang of scammers targeting the elderly widow of an art dealer and collector picked

Four people were arrested, including the victim’s own daughter who accuses police of stealing 16 paintings, worth an estimated 709m reais (£114m) from her 82-year-old mother.

One of the most valuable of those works of art was Amaral’s Sol Poente (Setting Sun), a spectacular 1929 oil painting found hidden in the bottom of a bed during a raid on one of the suspect’s homes.

A video posted on social media showed the astonishing moment when Setting Sun was recovered from a beachfront condo in Ipanema by officers from the Civil Police Senior Services Division.

“Well, well, well – look what we have here!” said one female officer as the artwork was removed from under the bed and unfolded.

“Fuck hell!” a man’s voice replies in Portuguese as the group celebrates its instantly recognizable find.

Other works of art believed to have been stolen from the victim include Mascarada by the modernist master Di Cavalcanti and two other Amaral paintings: Pont-Neuf and O Sono. Both are also believed to be worth tens of millions of pounds.

“You know those stories where you say: ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’?. And then you do see it and you say, ‘I can’t believe it!’? This is one of those!” A Brazilian TV reporter declare while her Wednesday lunch brought viewers news of the strange crime.

Some of the 16 stolen paintings were reportedly sold to overseas collectors, with two finding their way to the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires in Argentina. Three were traced to an art gallery in São Paulo. About £1 million worth of jewelery was also stolen.

According to a police statement, the scam began in January 2020 when the victim’s daughter hired a fake psychic who was tasked with approaching her mother when she arrived at a bank in Copacabana.

The charlatan crystal gazer falsely claimed the woman’s daughter was about to die and took her to a fortune teller and an Afro-Brazilian priestess who confirmed that false prediction.

Police allege the three offered to intervene spiritually – for a fee – and received hundreds of thousands of pounds over the coming weeks for their pseudo-efforts.

When the widow became suspicious and refused to keep paying, she was forcibly confined to her home in Rio’s wealthy southern beach district, threatened, beaten and gradually robbed of the art collection she had inherited from her late husband.

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Tarsila do Amaral, or Tarsila as she is popularly known, is one of South America’s most important 20th-century artists, known for her bold use of color, vibrant landscapes and deeply Brazilian style.

Born in São Paulo in 1886, she studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and became one of the key figures of Brazil’s modernist movement in the 1920s, 30s and 40s.

She died in 1973 at the age of 86.

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