Art Theft News Roundup: Degas Pastel Discovered Stolen on New Year’s Eve from the Cantini Museum in Marseilles, France

January 2nd, 2010

Edgar Degas‘s Les Choristes (1876-77) via AFP

A valuable pastel by the 19th century Impressionist painter, Edgar Degas (b. Paris, 1834; d. 1917) was discovered missing from the Cantini Museum in Marseille, France, Thursday, December 31. The stolen piece, Les Choristes (also referred to as Les Figurants), measures 27cm by 32cm, and was on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, Paris for an exhibition showcasing twenty Degas works portraying a common theatre theme. It depicts a line of male choir singers preparing for a stage performance. While a museum guard was arrested on Friday in connection with the overnight heist, further investigation is pending and the suspect has been subsequently released. Authorities are continuing to examine CCTV footage in order to ascertain whether or not museum insiders or intruders can be blamed for the theft. Jacques Dallest, a prosecutor leading the case, reports no apparent signs of a break-in and that the pastel appears to have been unscrewed from the wall. Rumors of the work’s value were circulating at upwards of $30 million. However, authorities have since corrected this lofty estimation to assert the pastel’s actual value at £800,000 or $1.14 million.

More text, images and related links after the jump…

Exterior of the Cantini Museum as police investigate the missing Les Choristes, via Art Daily

Coinciding with the disappearance of a private collection, including Picassos and Rousseaus, from a private villa in the south of France, the Degas heist constitutes the second major art theft of this week.

Edgar Degas’s Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (1879-81) via Guardian

Earlier this year, Degas’s bronze sculpture of a ballerina, Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, fetched a record £13.3 million to become the highlight of a recent Sotheby’s auction in London. His iconic renderings of dancers consistently claim top bids at notable auctions, including the Impressionist and Modern sale at Christie’s in November.

Deputy mayor Daniel Hermann speaks to journalists outside the gates of the Cantini Museum in Marseille, France, via CNN

Related Links:
Degas Work Stolen [NY Times]
Degas Artwork Stolen from Museum [BBC News]
Degas Painting Stolen from French Museum [AFP]
Degas Painting Stolen in France [Independent]
Police Suspect Inside Job as Degas Pastel Disappears from Museum [The Guardian]
Marseille Police Let Watchman Go After Degas Theft [NY Times]
Related: 1M Euro Art Collection Stolen from French Villa [CBC News]

-R. Maggart