A stolen Picasso cubist masterpiece has been recovered in New York fourteen years after dissappearing from the storage room at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It will be returned to the French government as soon as possible, a US official has said.
The work of art titled, ‘La Coiffeuse’ (The Hairdresser) was sent in a Fedex parcel to the United States from Belgium last Christmas labelled as an Arts & Crafts gift valued at $37 (£24). It was intercepted by vigilant US customs officers, opened and subsequently seized when an expert thought that it might be genuine.
The 1911 Analytic Cubist work dates from Picasso’s most radical period and is highly sought after by collectors worldwide. The small canvas is reported to be worth around £1.6m, however a piece of this quality could escalate by up to five times this amount at auction
The monochrome composition was reported missing in November 2001, when gallery officials were unable to locate it following a loan request.
The parcel was addressed from “Robert”, and carried an address in Belgium. The parcel was marked “Happy Christmas” and labelled as “art craft/toy”. The identity of the person the package was addressed to in the US has not been released.
“A lost treasure has been found,” said Loretta Lynch, US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who filed a civil suit to return the painting to France. “The market to sell stolen antiquities in the United States is drying up,” Anthony Scandiffio, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, told the New York Times.
The Picasso oil on canvas belongs to the Musee National d’Art Moderne collection and was last exhibited in Munich in 1998.