“La Coiffeuse” -- or “The Hairdresser” in English -- was seized by U.S. officials after someone tried to ship it from Belgium to New York. The painting was stolen from a French museum in 2001. Image courtesy the Department of Justice
NEW YORK, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. officials seized a stolen painting by Pablo Picasso after it had been shipped from Belgium to New York in a box labeling it as an "art craft" worth $37.
The 1911 oil painting, titled "La Coiffeuse" -- or "The Hairdresser" in English -- was first reported stolen in 2001 from a storeroom at the Center Georges Pompidou.
A news release from the office of U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch in the Eastern District of New York said the 13-by-18-inch painting was detained Dec. 17 by U.S. Customs and Border Protection after it was shipped from Belgium to the United States. The shipper described the item as an "art craft" and "art craft toy" and put a value of $37 on it.
The current value of the cubist painting is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
Upon confirming the painting's identity, Homeland Security Investigations seized it, alleging it was stolen property and it was smuggled into the United States against the law.
"A lost treasure has been found," Lynch said. "Because of the blatant smuggling in this case, this painting is now subject to forfeiture to the United States. Forfeiture of the painting will extract it from the grasp of the black market in stolen art so that it can be returned to its rightful owner."
"La Coiffeuse" is owned by the French government and was part of the collection of the Musée National d'Art Moderne in Paris. The painting was last on view as a loan to the Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung in Munich, Germany. It was placed in the storeroom at the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris -- where the Musée National d'Art Moderne is housed -- upon its return to France. It is unknown how long the painting had been missing before museum officials noticed it was gone.