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Friday
Jan212011

Stolen Degas Painting Returned to France After 37 Years

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Thirty-seven years after a laundress in a white veil disappeared from her home in northwest France, U.S. authorities discovered her at a New York City auction house, and Friday officially returned her to her rightful owners.

The woman in question is not a real person, but the subject of a 6.5-by-8.5 inch painting by French impressionist Edgar Degas that had been heisted from a Normandy art museum in 1973.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators discovered the masterpiece in a Sotheby's catalogue in October. Later, markings on the bank confirmed a link to the Louvre in Paris.

At the French Embassy residence in Washington Friday, U.S. and French officials formally signed documents transferring ownership of the painting.

Although only valued at an estimated $350,000 to $450,000, the work is particularly prized by the French, given the relative paucity of Degas paintings remaining within their national borders, officials said.

The recovery was also hailed as an example of international collaboration to combat the illicit trafficking of high-value cultural property.

Morton said no suspects are in custody in conjunction with the theft and declined to comment on specifics of the ongoing investigation. In the U.S., art thieves and illicit traffickers of cultural property can face up to 20 years in prison if caught and convicted.

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