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U.S. Returns Stolen Picasso Painting to France

Fourteen years after its reported theft from a Paris museum, "La Coiffeuse" by Pablo Picasso, will return home.
"La Coiffeuse," a cubist work by Picasso worth about $15 million, is displayed in the French Embassy in Washington French Embassy via AFP - Getty ImagesFrench Embassy via AFP - Getty Images

Fourteen years after its reported theft from a Paris museum, "La Coiffeuse" by Pablo Picasso, will return home.

U.S. authorities returned the stolen $15 million Picasso painting "La Coiffeuse" to France on Thursday, nine months after it was found in a FedEx shipment listed as a $37 handicraft.

In a repatriation ceremony held at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement director Sarah Saldaña officially transferred the painting over to the Frédéric Doré, deputy chief of mission at the French Embassy.

"The recovery and return of stolen artwork and other cultural artifacts remains a significant priority for ICE,” Saldaña said.

Related: Picasso Paintings Put Spotlight on Art Theft, Disputed Ownership

“La Coiffeuse”, or "the Hairdresser" was painted in 1911 and is an oil on canvas Cubist work valued now at approximately $15 million. In December, U.S. custom's officials at the Port of Newark discovered the painting in a package sent from Belgium described on the shipping slip as "handicrafts" and insured for roughly $37.

Yet according to the Justice department, the package was bound for a climate-controlled storage facility on Long Island. The package was seized by Customs and Border Patrol and turned over to Homeland Security.

Upon authentication by two experts from the Paris museum, arrangements were made to return it to the French government, the rightful owner.

Related: Picasso Stolen From Paris Museum Seized in U.S.

Officials declined to comment on the investigation into the theft.

Previous art repatriations to France have included works by Edgar Degas, Camille Pissaro and Andre Breton.

The Homeland Security Investigations unit of U.S. Customs has returned more than 7,800 items to their home countries since 2007, the agency said in a statement.

Thursday's ceremony was brief, and ended with a signing ceremony and handshake between Saldaña and Doré

"We're so glad that it's going to be shown to the world again," Saldaña told reporters.