• 22 Mar 2018

On February 16th 2018 a peculiar discovery was made in a bus parked at the Ferrières en Seine-et-Marne’s station. Indeed, a canvas was found in the trunk. A week later, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris is positive. The canvas is a stolen Artwork from Old Master Edgar Degas.

Bus interior by Pexels

© Pexels

An Artwork that has been missing since 2009

On December 31st 2009, the Cantini Museum in Marseille announced a sad news. In fact, the museum’s representatives stated that Edgar Degas’ pastel entitled “Les Choristes” and made in 1871 disappeared. Such an Artwork which combines painting and engraving elements represents a scene extracted from Don Juan’s opera. It supposedly was painted based on a conversation Edgar Degas would have had with his friend Daniel Halévy. Despite the Cantini Museum’s protective precautions, the canvas was unscrewed. Moreover, the small format of the Artwork made it easier to steal. As a result, the canvas was among the most wanted stolen artistic treasures in the world and listed in Interpol’s data. Museums do not only find lost Artworks in their storage facilities as explained in our article about the artistic rediscoveries of the Louvre Museum and the Carnegie Museum. In fact, this time, the masterpiece was found in a bus.

Artwork Les Choristes by Edgar Degas made in 1871

Les Choristes (The Choristers), 1871 © Edgar Degas

A one-of-a-kind saga

For eight years, the Artwork remained lost and the investigation stuck in a dead end. It was only on Friday February 16th 2018 that an odd call from Marne-la-Vallée’s custom officers shook the case up. Indeed, they said they found in a bus a suitcase which contained “an Artwork with a “Degas” signature, for which no passenger claimed to be the owner.” As a result, the French Ministry of public accounts and the French Ministry of Culture took over the case and asked for an expertise from the Musée d’Orsay. The recent authentification of the Artwork is a relief for the Art world. “It is the good news of the week, the nice surprise. We are delighted, obviously, but above all it is a relief because we haven’t heard of it since February 2009 and had all the reasons to be worried about its fate” said the Musée d’Orsay’s President Laurence des Cars. However, the identity of the thief hasn’t been disclosed yet.

The inclusion of the Artwork in a significant 2019 exhibition

According to the first observations, the Artwork shouldn’t have suffered from damages since its disappearance. As a result, depending on its condition, it may be included in the “Degas at the Opera” exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay that is supposed to take place in the first 2019 quarter. Also, the Réunion des musées nationaux said the canvas was estimated at 800 000 Euros. Nonetheless, the Cantini musuem, on the other hand, said it was worth 30 million Euros. The Musée d’Orsay remained cautious by stating that it is “an insurance matter that cannot be disclosed”. The case of the stolen Artwork may have had a happy ending; however, several other stories remain unresolved. In that context, Art-Trope got back on the biggest Art heist in the world at the Isabella Garner Museum of Boston. That is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Picture of the Orsay Museum in Paris by Xiquinhosilva from Cacau

Orsay Msueum © Xiquinhosilva from Cacau


Read our article about the sale of 3 Picassos for 90 million Euros here.

Sources: Musée d’Orsay, Le Monde and the French Ministry of Culture