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Picasso’s home set to sell for US$24m

This file photo in Mougins shows the villa in which Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) spent the last years of his life. The villa will be auctioned today in Grasse. — AFP

This file photo in Mougins shows the villa in which Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) spent the last years of his life. The villa will be auctioned today in Grasse. — AFP

PICASSO’S mansion on the French Riviera — where his last wife tragically shot herself — is expected to be sold for more than 20 million euros (US$24 million) at an auction today.

The artist spent his twilight years on the estate at Mougins in the hills near Cannes, dying there in April 1973, 12 years after moving there with his muse and second wife Jacqueline Roque.

Roque — who Picasso painted more than 400 times, but who feuded with his children after his death — killed herself at the house overlooking the Mediterranean in 1986.

Her daughter Catherine Hutin-Blay sold the estate to a Dutch owner, who renamed it the “Cavern of the Minotaur” after the painter’s obsession with the mythical beast.

Before Picasso the house had belonged to the Anglo-Irish Guinness brewing family. Wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill, a keen amateur artist, was a frequent visitor, painting in the grounds.

The Dutch owner got into financial difficulty after carrying out extensive work on the property, which dates from the 18th century, and its 3 hectares of grounds.

Maxime Van Rolleghem, a lawyer for the former owner’s creditors, Achmea Bank, said the house was “a bargain ... A lot of luxury villas on the Cote d’Azur are worth a great deal more than this.”

He said the previous owner had wanted 170 million euros for the estate after hugely expanding the house, adding a large pool, garages and a tennis court.

But work had stopped when his money ran out.

Van Rolleghem said a Sri Lankan financier Rayo Withanage had put an offer of 20.1 million euros on the house in June, but “he hadn’t yet got together the funds” to complete the transaction.

He said if the house does not go for above 20.1 million euros today — when it will be sold under the eyes of a judge at the courthouse of nearby Grasse — Withanage, the managing partner of the Scepter Partners merchant bank, will get a further two months to pay.

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