Stolen work by famed painter Degas found in bus

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Paris, France -- French painter Edgar Degas' rousing depiction of singers at an opera has been found in -- of all places -- a parked bus, nine years after it was stolen from a Marseille museum.

"The Chorus Singers," painted in 1877, was found February 16 by customs agents. They were checking the luggage compartment of a bus parked at a rest area in Seine-et-Marne, outside Paris, the French Ministry of Culture said in a press release Friday.

"In a suitcase, they discovered a work carrying the signature 'Degas' for which no passenger came forward as the owner," the ministry said. Officials did not indicate whether they have any leads on who might have put the painting on the bus.

So ends the unusual road trip for Degas' only work inspired by an opera that doesn't feature dancers. It depicts a scene from Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni."

The Musée d'Orsay in Paris, which owns the work, confirmed the painting's authenticity following an initial examination, officials said. The art was lifted while it was on loan in 2009 to the Musée Cantini in Marseille.

The statement gave no value for the pastel painting, though some reports indicated a sum of about $1 million.

The Musée d'Orsay tweeted that it was delighted by the discovery -- no doubt very happy to have the unframed canvas back in the fold of its extensive Degas collection.

Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen hailed the "rediscovery of a precious work belonging to the national collections, the disappearance of which represented a heavy loss for French impressionist heritage."

The painting will be featured in the "Degas at the Opera" exhibit that's planned for September 2019 at Musée D'Orsay.

Thieves have long targeted art. Another work by Degas, who was known for his paintings and sculpture during the Impressionist movement, was pilfered in 2008.

Four masterpieces by Paul Cezanne, Degas, Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet were stolen by masked raiders at the Buehrle Foundation museum in Switzerland. All were recovered, including Degas' "Count Lepic and his Daughters," which was retrieved with slight damage in 2012.

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