Art Heist: Seven Pieces Stolen From Museum

Seven paintings stolen from a Dutch museum in one of the largest heists in years could be worth 200 million euros (£162m), an expert has suggested.

The haul, taken in the early hours of Tuesday from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, includes works by Picasso, Matisse and Monet.

Police said they include Pablo Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin (1971) and Henri Matisse's La Liseuse and Blanc Et Jaune (1919).

Two pieces by Claude Monet - Waterloo Bridge, London (1901) and Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901) - were also stolen.

The thieves also made off with Paul Gauguin's Femme Devant Une Fenetre Ouverte, Dite La Fiancee (1888), Meyer de Haan's Autoportrait (circa 1889 - 91) and Woman With Eyes Closed (2002) by Lucian Freud.

The museum says the value is "considerable", but declined to put a figure on them. An expert at the Cornette de Saint-Cyr auction house in Paris, who requested anonymity, said the paintings were worth "between 150 and 200 million euros".

Museum director Emily Ansenk, who flew back to Rotterdam after hearing of the theft during a visit to Turkey, told a press conference that what had happened was "a nightmare for any museum".

The stolen paintings were "unique works that are known around the world," she said.

Alerted by an alarm but arriving at the museum in Rotterdam after the thief or thieves had fled, police said they had launched a major investigation that includes interviewing possible witnesses and examining CCTV footage.

Ms Ansenk said police arrived at the scene just five minutes after the alarm went off in Rotterdam's museum park.

The works were among the 150-strong Triton Foundation's collection, which was being shown in its entirety to the public for the first time to mark the museum's 20th anniversary, the Kunsthal's website said.

The collection "has developed into one with an international reputation and which comprises representative works by the most important and influential artists of the late 19th century to the present day," it said.

The exhibition "comprises works from almost every significant art movement", it added.

The Kunsthal, which means "art hall", has no permanent collection of its own. It will reopen on Wednesday, the museum said.

It is the biggest art theft in The Netherlands since 20 paintings were stolen from Amsterdam's Van Gogh museum in 1991.