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Stolen Jules Breton Painting Returned to France

Stolen Jules Breton Painting Returned to France

Published on October 13, 2011
On October 13, an official ceremony was held at the French ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC, to mark the return to France of “Une fille de pêcheur,”a painting by 19th-century artist Jules Breton that had been missing for nearly a century.

Washington DC, October 13, 2011

Following the return of Degas’s “Washerwomen with Toothaches” in January, the event once again underscored French-American cooperation in the fight against art trafficking, as Ambassador François Delattre said.

Painted by Breton in 1876 for the Musée de la Chartreuse in Douai, “A Fisherman’s Daughter,” also known as “The Net Mender,” was stolen by soldiers of the German army in 1918. “The exact circumstances of the theft remain unclear,” says Anne Labourdette, the museum’s curator, who traveled to Washington for the event.

The canvas was considered missing throughout the 20th century. Only in 2000 was the museum notified of the painting’s sale by a German gallery. A process of authentication followed, during which the painting was acquired by several galleries.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Douai’s quest to reclaim the painting succeeded, with assistance from INTERPOL Washington, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “New York’s Daphne Alazraki Fine Art Gallery, the most recent co-owner of the work, is returning it to us for free,” notes Ms. Labourdette.

“The return of this work to France is very good news,” says Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valéro. “France thanks the Daphne Alazraki Gallery for its collaboration in returning the work, as well as the U.S. customs service and INTERPOL for their cooperation.”

Neither the hazards of war nor extensive travel seem to have affected the fisherman’s daughter, who is shown painstakingly mending a fishing net. Ninety-three years after being taken away from Douai, she’s about to find a permanent home in the collections of the Musée de la Chartreuse, where she belongs.

A Fisherman’s Daughter
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