Stolen Jules Breton Painting Returned to France
The Ambassador’s speech
Mr. Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (John Morton),
Mr. Director of Interpol Washington (Timothy Williams),
Mr. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Preet Baharara),
Madame la Directrice du Service des Musées de France (Marie-Christine Labourdette),
Madame la Conservatrice du Musée de la Chartreuse (Anne
Labourdette), Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am particularly honored to welcome you in these special circumstances and I want to thank each and everyone of you for your presence here today. Some of you have come especially from Paris, Douai and New York to be here with us and I cannot thank you enough. Your presence means a lot to me and to all of us.
For the second time this year, we have the opportunity to meet and celebrate the return by the United States to France of a major work of art. Stolen over nearly a hundred years ago, Jules Breton’s “La fille de pêcheur” – A Fisherman’s Daughter - was found thanks to the tenacity of many people, including many present here today. I am proud to welcome you and to celebrate, for the second time this year, an outstanding example of French-American cooperation.
Jules Breton was commissioned by the city of Douai in 1875 to paint “La fille de pêcheur” and he finished it the following year; the painting disappeared along with other important works of art in September 1918, as the German army was retreating from the city. It resurfaced again in 2000, in Germany, where it was owned by various galleries.
INTERPOL Washington and ICE New York were then alerted in 2010, and conducted an exemplary collaborative effort that lead to this restitution. Returning a painting to a museum is a significant contribution to the celebration of our cultural heritage and a gift to all future visitors who will enjoy the work of art, but it is also another great illustration of Franco-American friendship and cooperation.
We are celebrating today a gesture of friendship by the United States toward the French Republic, a gesture for which we are particularly grateful. And for that, I would like to thank John Morton, Timothy Williams, Preet Baharara, and all those whose strong commitment made this great accomplishment possible. Through them, and through you, on behalf of France and the French Government, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to the government of the United States.