U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton presented a painting by Edgar Degas, “Blanchisseuses Souffrant Des Dents,” to the acting French Ambassador to the United States, François Rivasseau. The painting, completed between 1870 to 1872, depicts two views of a laundress with a toothache.
In 1961, the painting was loaned to the Musée Malraux in Le Havre in Normandy, France, but was stolen from the museum in December 1973. In October 2010, the Degas painting appeared in the Sotheby’s New York catalogue for a pending auction of Impressionist and modern art.
Interpol notified ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agent in charge in New York who initiated the investigation. HSI special agents tracked the provenance of the piece and authenticated many markings on the back of the painting, including inventory marks by the Louvre, which confirmed the painting offered for sale was the stolen work.
As the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE plays a leading role in investigating crimes involving the illicit importation and distribution of cultural property.
Without the assistance of Interpol, the true nature of the painting may have been undiscovered for another 40 years.
To view the ICE press release, please click here.
Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.
The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or at one of the offices listed above.