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Lost Picasso returned to France 17 years after it was stolen

Picasso's cubist "La Coiffeuse", worth about $15 million, was stolen in 2001
Picasso's cubist "La Coiffeuse", worth about $15 million, was stolen in 2001 AFP PHOTO HANDOUT-US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

The painting “La Coiffeuse” (The Hairdresser), worth around 13.5 million euros, has turned up in Newark, in the United States, wrapped in a parcel. It had been mailed from Belgium at Christmas.


The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency will return Picasso’s "Hairdresser” to the French authorities, who are the legal owner of the painting, during a ceremony held at the French embassy in Washington on Thursday. The canvas was recovered last Christmas, 17 years after it was stolen.

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol intercepted the Cubist painting after it had been mailed via FedEx from Belgium on 17th December last year. It bore the inscription “Art Craft/30 E/Joyeux Noel”, meaning the parcel contained an arts and crafts Christmas gift that had a value of 30 euros. But when the package was inspected, officials at the facility in Newark, New Jersey, found the 33 centimeter by 46 centimeter art work.

The canvas is a study in blacks, whites and greys, and was painted in 1911. It was discovered missing from the storeroom of the modern art Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2001. Prior to that, the painting had last been seen in 1998 during an exhibition in Munich and when the Centre Pompidou staffers discovered it was gone, they were preparing to loan it to India for another exhibition.

A spokesperson for France’s customs attache in the US said the painting was part of France’s heritage. Its recovery, he added, was excellent news for the public who would have the chance to see this unique piece of art again. The Centre Pompidou already said they were looking forward to being able to show the painting in Paris.

Another stolen Picasso work, "Head of a Young Woman", worth over 25 million euros, was transferred Tuesday to a Madrid museum. It had been taken from a yacht off the French island of Corsica.

The painting , which was subject to a Spanish export ban, was recovered by French customs at the end of July.

When Pablo Picasso died in 1973, he left a colossal collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures…"The Hairdresser” dates back to the Spanish painter’s Cubist era, at the beginning of the 20th century. His most famous work, "The Young Ladies of Avignon”, was completed in the same period.


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