France returns Nazi-stolen Degas drawing to rightful owners

France has returned to its rightful owners a drawing by Edgar Degas that was stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owner in 1940.

Charcoal sketch 'trois danseuses en buste' had remained unclaimed in the Louvre

Viviane Dreyfus, daughter of the late Maurice Dreyfus, applauds next to the late 19th-century drawing 'Trois danseuses en buste' by Edgar Degas after a speech of French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay in Paris on Monday, during the handover. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)

France has returned to its rightful owners a drawing by Edgar Degas that was stolen by the Nazis from its Jewish owner in 1940.

In a moving ceremony in Paris Monday, Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay said that "Trois danseuses en buste" — a late 19th-century charcoal sketch of three ballerinas — was found in 1951 in a cupboard in the Occupation-era German Embassy. It had since remained unclaimed in the Louvre.

Viviane Dreyfus accepted the drawing for her father Maurice, who died in 1957 without ever speaking of the lost work.

She said she was "extremely touched," especially because she didn't know the work existed.

There are 2000 unclaimed works sitting in French museums, of which at least 145 were stolen by the Nazis.

Edgar Degas drew the sketch in the late 19th century. It was officially returned to the family of Maurice Dreyfus on Monday, 76 years after it was stolen by France's Nazi occupiers. (Michel Euler/Associated Press)