Stolen Degas painting to be sent home to France: US

2nd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

An Edgar Degas painting stolen nearly 30 years ago from a museum in France will be returned by the US government, which recovered the rare artwork shortly before it was to be sold at auction, officials said Thursday.

The painting, "Blanchisseuses souffrant des dents," was stolen from a French museum in 1973 and resurfaced recently when investigators discovered that it was set for auction at Sothesby's in New York.

Degas' Impressionist portrait of a laundrywoman holding her face in pain from an aching tooth was stolen in December 1973 from the Malraux Museum in Le Havre, Normandy.

The artwork, painted by Degas between 1870-72, had been on loan from the Paris government to the museum, which was destroyed in World War II, in honor of its reconstruction.

The Sothesby catalogue for the November 3, 2010 auction had estimated the painting's sale price to be between 350,000 dollars and 450,000 dollars.

"The return of this masterpiece to the French government reflects our commitment to ensure the return of stolen artwork and cultural patrimony," said Loretta Lynch, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement.

Lynch said Sothesby's promptly cooperated with law enforcement and pulled the piece from the auction block once it learned that it had a purloined artwork in its possession.

US customs officials and authorities from INTERPOL were also involved in the recovery of the painting, officials said.

© 2010 AFP

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