Sat, Jan 02, 2010 - Page 6 News List

Degas pastel stolen from museum in southern France


A work by Edgar Degas has been stolen from an exhibition in Marseille by thieves who left no sign of breaking in, police in the southern French city said on Thursday.

The pastel, called Les Choristes (The Chorus), which has an estimated value of 800,000 euros (US$1.1 million), was discovered to be missing from the Musee Cantini by a security guard when he opened up.

Police said the work, which had been on loan from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris for an exhibition due to end today, had been stolen overnight.

However, Jacques Dallest — the Marseille prosecutor leading the investigation involving France’s anti-art trafficking agency — said he had found no evidence of a break-in.

“There do not seem to be any signs of breaking and entering,” he said.

Investigators could not rule out the theory that the theft had been carried out by a “complicit insider,” he said.

The Musee Cantini is one of the best-known galleries in France’s second city with a permanent collection that includes works by Picasso, Matisse and Francis Bacon. The museum was closed yesterday while police began their search. The current exhibition, which is also featured paintings by Klimt, Toulouse-­Lautrec and others, had been running since October.

The stolen Degas, which was created between 1876 and 1877, is small, measuring just 27cm by 32cm. However, a spokeswoman for the French national museum authority said that, while it was not one of the impressionist’s masterpieces, it was still a great blow to both the Paris and Marseille institutions.

“It’s not one of his best-known works, but it’s a tragedy none the less to lose something of this nature,” she said.

A museum official added that the work was “a painting of inestimable value.”

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