That Stolen Degas Painting Found on a Paris Bus? Now It’s Going to Hang in the Musee d’Orsay.

The exhibition “Degas at the Opera” is due to travel to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

Edgar Degas, Les Choristes (1877). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The stolen painting by Edgar Degas discovered last week on a bus just outside of Paris will go on show at the city’s Musée d’Orsay next year in an exhibition due to travel to Washington, DC, the following spring, artnet News has learned.

Les Choristes (The Choristers) will be a special guest in the exhibition “Degas at the Opera,” which is due open in September 2019 in Paris and then travel to the National Gallery of Art in March 2020.

The 1877 work by the French Impressionist painter is a small pastel monotype—a technique halfway between painting and engraving—depicting the choir from the opera Don Juan during the first act’s finale celebrations, making it the only one of Degas’s many opera-inspired works that does not include dancers.

A spokesperson for the Musée d’Orsay told AFP that the discovery of the painting that was stolen nine years ago is a “wonderful happy ending,” adding that “it would have been a terrible loss for us to do [the exhibition] without this painting.” The show is being co-curated by the former director of the Louvre, Henri Loyrette, with Leïla Jarbouai and Marine Kisiel.

French customs agents discovered the painting inside a suitcase in the luggage compartment of a bus during a routine check while it was parked at a gas station on a highway in Seine-et-Marne. At first they were unsure whether the signature “Degas” on the small painting was authentic, and none of the passengers admitted to owning it. But the Musée d’Orsay was able to confirm the authenticity of the work, estimated to be worth nearly $1 million.

Les Choristes was bequeathed to the French national collections by the French painter Gustave Caillebotte in 1894, along with 67 other paintings by various artists, including six other works by Degas. In a statement to the press, French culture minister Françoise Nyssen called it a “happy discovery,” noting that its disappearance nine years ago had “represented a heavy loss for the French impressionist heritage” and recalling that it was the centenary of Degas’s death last year.

The painting was stolen in 2009 while on loan to the Musée Cantini in Marseilles. The work was unscrewed from the wall in what was initially suspected as having been an inside job, but the investigation into the theft by the OCBC, the specialized police force managing the fight against the traffic of cultural goods, had long since gone cold.

In a statement, the minister responsible for customs in France, Gérald Darmanin, praised “the constant vigilance of customs in the fight against the trafficking of cultural property and its commitment to the protection of the cultural heritage.”


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