Teams from Erzurum’s Provincial Gendarmerie Command said they learned the painting was being brought to Erzurum from Turkey’s eastern province of Van in an attempt to sell it for $5 million.

Gendarmes stopped a car carrying three suspects, later identified only by their initials -- A.D., I.A. and S.K. The trio was arrested at Erzurum’s Horasan district.

Apart from the unconfirmed Picasso -- which was reportedly stolen from Iraq’s State Museum -- three ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic manuscripts were also seized, the gendarmerie said.

According to initial inspections, the painting carries a Picasso signature on the front, dated 1939. The rear side of the painting -- a portrait of a smiling young man -- carries seals and information claiming the painting belongs to the famous Spanish artist.

The Turkish authorities have stored the painting to further investigate its authenticity with representatives from Erzurum’s main museum and Ataturk University’s History of Art Department.

Last year Turkish media reported that Turkish police seized another famous painting by the great Spanish artist in Istanbul.

However, the Paris-based Picasso Administration later said the seized artwork was a fake and the original -- entitled “Women Dressing Her Hair” -- was in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Earlier this year, five suspects, including a police officer and a retired police chief, were arrested while trying to sell another ‘Picasso’ painting.

Anadolu Agency