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Notebook stolen from Picasso Museum

A RED notebook of 33 pencil drawings by Pablo Picasso stolen from the Paris museum bearing his name will be hard for thieves to sell, France's culture minister said yesterday.

The theft was discovered on Tuesday morning by an employee of the Picasso Museum. The notebook had been kept in a second-floor glass display case that can only be opened with a special instrument.

"It's difficult to sell, a notebook of pencil sketches made in the 1920s," Culture Minister Christine Albanel said. "Even the Picasso family said it has a scientific value" - unlike a painting. "It seems bizarre, to say the least."

About 1,000 people a day visit the museum. The culture minister said four security personnel make rounds in six exhibition rooms. Albanel could not provide an exact time of the break-in.

The stolen sketchbook, shiny red with the word "Album" inscribed in gold on the front, dated from 1917 to 1924, according to a Culture Ministry statement.

The Picasso Museum, in Paris' old Marais neighborhood, is dedicated to the Spanish-born painter, a founder of the Cubist movement and leading 20th-century artist.

Museum head Anne Baldassari said she didn't think it was a commissioned theft - one specifically ordered up by an unscrupulous collector.

She would not speculate about the notebook's value, which a police official said earlier was likely worth 8 million euros (US$11 million).


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