Rare Degas painting stolen 9 years ago found in suitcase

French customs officers have found a rare1877 impressionist painting by Edgar Degas stowed on a bus, nine years after it was reported stolen from a museum in Marseille, Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said. Officers found the painting worth at least $893,000 hidden in a suitcase in the luggage compartment of a bus stopped on the highway. None of the bus passengers claimed the suitcase during the search. Experts identified the work as ‘Les Choristes’ (pictured), or ‘The Extras’ — a rare depiction of non-dancers by the ballet-loving Degas. The scene is from Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. A spokeswoman of Musee d’Orsay said the recovery of ‘Les Choristes’ is  a big relief ahead of Degas’ death centenary next year. The recovered painting will have a special place in the ‘Degas at the Opera’ show which will  be held in September next year. The painting belonged to Musee d’Orsay and it was loaned to the museum in Marseille for a show on art and theatre. It mysteriously disappeared from the Marseille museum on New Year’s Eve 2009. French customs officers declined to reveal what led to the recovery of the rare painting. Customs said they had been keeping an eye on treasures smuggled from war-ravaged Syria. Last October, they found eight 3000-year-old Egyptian antiquities in the baggage of a British man at a Paris railway station. It was duly returned to Cairo.