How willing are you to believe another human being?: the case of Picasso’s alarm installer

A 71-year-old retired electrician is at the centre of a legal battle after coming forward with more than 200 hitherto unknown paintings by Pablo Picasso, a French newspaper reported Monday.

Experts who have examined the collection have estimated it could be worth some 60 million euros (80 million dollars), Liberation reported.

…Le Guennec said he had worked installing alarm sytems at a number of Picasso's residences, including a villa in Cannes in the south of France, during the last three years of Picasso's life — he died in 1973.

He said he had had been given the works as presents, either by Picasso's wife or from the artist himself. The collection included 271 works, Liberation reported.

For the pointer (more here) I thank Chris F. Masse.


His timing seems to be very good, considering the recent article on the recent spike in demand for Picasso's in China.

It's interesting, londenio, that you ask a crucial question and then, without answering it, declare that Le Guennec lied. The rational way to proceed is to verify Le Guennec's story against evidence. If it checks out, then why not believe him? Are we really going to decide that someone is lying just because there's a lot of money at stake?

"The rational way to proceed is to verify Le Guennec's story against evidence. If it checks out, then why not believe him?"

Intuition trumps hyper-cautious-rationality. Life is more like poker than it is chess. Truth is a woman, not a man.


The only "evidence" that could even hypothetically come out that would make the man who installed alarms to protect Picasso's possessions yet ended up with so many of them to the sudden surprise of everyone after so many years would have to be so amazing that for the sheer fact of its monumental amazingness it should be dismissed.

As the prosecutor against Timothy McVeigh said "Either this man is guilty or he is the unluckiest man in the world."

Actually, I would be unsurprised to discover that the alarm guy was telling the truth. John Lehman tells of a similar incident in his autobiography, _Command of the Seas_, when he and a bunch of shipmates happened to dine at Picasso's favorite resto while on shore leave from the Med, and (as he tells it) Picasso paid their bill with a drawing on a napkin because they'd apparently amused him.

"Truth is a woman, not a man."

Huh? WTF does that mean?

"Thanks, ma'am, but considering my trade, perhalps we should get that in writing."

Just maybe he was more to picasso than an alarm installer. Receiving a stream of gifts might well be natural then.

Any possibility that he could have been a lover AND an alarm installer?

It means deductive reasoning only gets us so far.


"truth is a woman" One of Nietzsche's more misogynist claims. As someone else pointed out it mean deduction gets one only so far, although it's broader than that. It's from Beyond Good and Evil and becomes even more interesting when you realize how clueless about women Nietzsche was... Like many highly intelligent men who don't have a girlfriend he tended to treat them as even more frustrating and mysterious than normal.

The rule in western world is "innocent until proven guilty", no? Then, it even not needed to "verify Le Guennec's story against evidence" and see if "it checks out"; Le Guennec is telling the truth by default - it is the heirs of Picasso who have to discover anything that prof that Le Guennec stole the paints.

Btw, Picasso, in his time, made any complaint at the police about stolen paintings?

"Why is it completely inconceivable that Picasso would do something crazy? It is more likely, that this was just one more crazy thing in a long line of crazy things."

Right. And BTW, what's so crazy about it anyway? It's not like Picasso was just scraping by, and needed all those items to take to market, so he could pay his bills. The cost of paying a tradesman with a picture wasn't the guesstimated value, 20 years later, of what it might bring at auction. Rather, the cost to Picasso was the time he spent doing that particlar picture. Think how much better that might be to an artist than parting with actual cash. Makes perfect sense to me.

It means deductive reasoning only gets us so far.


(Answer without use of deductive reasoning.)

The solution to this problem seems relatively simple. Surely Picasso would notice if nearly 300 works suddenly went missing. Did he report the theft to the police? If yes, lock this man up. If no, there's clearly no basis for believing the paintings are stolen.

Don't be sullen, dirk. You leaped to a conclusion based on insufficient evidence and got called out on it.

(I actually happen to, tentatively, agree with your conclusion, after seeing a little more on my own, but your arbitrary and capricious method is what's at issue here.)

Comments for this post are closed