United States authorities have recovered a 1911 Picasso painting worth millions that disappeared from Paris in 2001, the Department of Justice says. “La Coiffeuse” was intercepted by customs agents in Newark after it was sent from Belgium in a FedEx package with a declared value of 30 euros, the DOJ announced Thursday in a press release that did not disclose the crucial and likely very interesting detail of why exactly customs agents realized they should be looking in low-value FedEx packages for a painting by one of the greatest artists who ever lived. From the release:
The shipping label attached to the package containing La Coiffeuse described its contents as “Art Craft / 30 E / Joyeux Noel,” indicating that the package contained a low-value handicraft shipped as a holiday present. The commercial invoice shipped with the painting similarly described the contents as an “Art Craft / Toy” valued at 30 Euros, or approximately $37 U.S. dollars.
The painting was last exhibited in Munich in 1998, the New York Times reports, and disappeared from a storage area at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 2001. The United States has filed a civil forfeiture claim that would allow the painting to be returned to France; it’s not clear who sent or intended to receive the smuggled artwork. More to come on this story of international intrigue, hopefully.