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The BBC's Jon Sopel reports
"Art critics are playing the parlour game: Who gave it?"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 14:48 GMT 15:48 UK
Mystery collector gives away masterpieces
Nude by Picasso
A painting by Picasso is part of the mystery donation
A mysterious art collector has donated more than 100 of the world's greatest works of art to France.

The collection includes paintings from art masters like Cézanne, Manet, Picasso and other 19th and 20th century greats.

I can think of no comparable donation in the recent history of this country's museums

Francoise Cachin, Director Musee d'Orsay - Paris

It has been described as "one of the greatest donations of the past century".

Art lovers can view the collection until 19 November at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

The collection consists of 74 paintings, 27 drawings, five sculptures and three books and includes a self-portrait of Cézanne.

Identity parade

The donor has left the world of art guessing after he asked to remain anonymous.

Museum authorities in France have obliged the donor's request, but fuelled speculation after confirming that the donor was French.

Francoise Cachin, director of state-owned museums threw more hints on the trail when he made this revelation about the donors identity: "His profession - teaching and research - has led him more towards the sciences than the arts."

The French weekly magazine L'Express and the provincial daily La Provence, have focused their attention on a 67-year-old medical researcher at the Necker Hospital in Paris, Philippe Meyer.

Musee d'Orsay in Paris
The collection is on display untill 19 November at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris

Mr Meyer is known to be a keen supporter of the arts and has contributed to the purchase of many greats' works to French museums.

Home at last

Ms Cachin said she was glad such French masterpieces were coming home to France.

"Our donor acquired almost all the works in Switzerland, the United States and England and brought these masterpieces back to their country of origin."

The masterpieces will be distributed throughout museums in France and their ownership will be officially handed to the country after the mystery donor's death.

Ms Cachin said: "We doubly praise his generosity. I can think of no comparable donation in the recent history of this country's museums."

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