US Returns To France Seized $15 Million Picasso Smuggled as Christmas Gift

It was shipped to the US as a $37 Christmas gift.

The painting was repatriated at an official handover ceremony at the French Embassy in Washington. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Yahoo News
Pablo Picasso La Coiffeusse Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images via AFP

Pablo Picasso La Coiffeusse (1911)
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images via AFP

The United States returned a long-lost $15 million Pablo Picasso painting to France with an official handover ceremony at the French embassy in Washington on Thursday.

La Coiffeuse (1911) was seized by American customs agents in Newark, New Jersey in December 2014. The painting was discovered in a parcel sent from Belgium to Queens, New York, labeled as “art craft.”

According to Kelly Currie, acting US attorney for the eastern district of New York, customs officials became suspicious because the package—shipped as a $37 Christmas gift—was addressed to a climate-controlled warehouse.

The painting was repatriated at an official handover ceremony at the French Embassy in Washington. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Yahoo News

The painting was repatriated at an official handover ceremony at the French Embassy in Washington.
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Yahoo News

Its content turned out to be the long-lost cubist masterpiece reported stolen from the archives of Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou Museum back in 2001.

Currie emphasized, “The US is not an easy market for black market smuggling of art and antiques,” adding that the case was resolved at an unprecedented pace.

Meanwhile, at the handover ceremony in Washington the US director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Sarah Saldaña said, “There’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when we return a piece of art like this… The message from ICE today is ‘This is part of our mission, a part of the work we do.’”

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Sarah Saldaña shakes hands with the deputy chief of mission at the French embassy, Frederic Dore. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Yahoo News

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement director Sarah Saldaña shakes hands with the deputy chief of mission at the French embassy, Frederic Dore.
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Yahoo News

She went on to praise the American government agencies involved in the identification and repatriation of the artwork, “You saw some tremendous investigative work in detecting this piece to begin with and we will continue to do so.”

According to AFP, the deputy chief of mission at the French embassy in Washington Frédéric Doré, applauded the “outstanding Franco-American customs cooperation.”

However, Doré revealed that the artwork had suffered some minor damage and that it required restoration work to “come back to life,” before being put back on public display in Paris.

Related stories:

Italian Police Bust Art Smugglers and Seize $16 Million Picasso

Purported Pablo Picasso Painting Seized by Iranian Police

Police Escort $28 Million Picasso Seized on Yacht to Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum


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