The package was sent from Belgium to Newark before Christmas 2015 through FedEx. It came to a Long Island City warehouse on 17th December before being transported to Port Newark, where the contents of the package were discovered. The identity of the person who sent the parcel has not be revealed, however, the parcel was labelled as having been sent from ''Robert.''

da75e828-7a86-4f82-8fa6-5437d897fba9-1020x744 La Coiffeuse, Picasso.
Photograph via AP/US Department of Justice

US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Loretta Lynch, filed a civil suit to return the painting to France on the grounds "a lost treasure has been found." The artwork needs to be held by authorities, she explained, to "extract it from the grasp of the black market in stolen art so that it can be returned to its rightful owner."

Special agent of Homeland Security Investigations Anthony Scandiffio said: "The recovery of the La Coiffeuse sends a strong message to thieves that the market to sell stolen antiquities in the United States is drying up."

The artwork was last exhibited in Munich in 1998 before it was put in to the store room at Paris' Pompidou Centre. Staff then realised it was missing when a request for it to be loaned was made.

No arrests have been made in connection with the piece as of yet.

Director of recoveries and general counsel James Ratcliffe of the Art Loss Register of stolen art said: "In our experience, we would consider this kind of discovery to be extremely rare. There must be a large number of similar parcels passing through customs every day. For this one to be spotted is either remarkably good luck – testament to the skill with which the Department of Homeland Security operate – or the result of some kind of tip-off or surveillance."

"It's very rare indeed for a Picasso to simply turn up in the post and be spotted like this."

President of the Pompidou Centre Alain Seban "this (is a) happy ending" to the case and he expressed his"deep gratitude" to the customs services.

There are nearly 1,300 missing Picassos on the Art Loss Register, making Picasso the most stolen artist in the world.

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