Degas painting stolen in France

A small pastel painting of choir singers by the French impressionist master Edgar Degas has been stolen from an exhibition in Marseilles.

The theft, which further darkened a black year for European museums, was noticed when staff opened the Musée Cantini in the centre of Marseilles yesterday morning. The pastel, part of a Degas exhibition due to end in two days' time, had been removed from its frame. The Marseilles public prosecutor, Jacques Dallest, said: "There was no sign of a break-in... It was a small painting, easily hidden. There are three possible lines of inquiry. It could have been taken by a visitor, an intruder or by someone working for the museum."

The painting, Les Choristes, was said by its owner, the French museums service, to be worth around € 800,000. The Marseilles city councillor in charge of exhibitions said the theft was a "catastrophe" for a museum which has been attempting to raise its cultural profile.

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