Pissarro's "Le Marche aux Poissons" was returned Wednesday to France. (Image courtesy of ICE Public Affairs)

“Le Marche aux Poissons” came into American hands but when it was included in a Sotheby’s auction house catalog, the Pissarro was identified as the stolen work. In Washington Wednesday the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency offically transferred the painting back to the French government, represented by French Ambassador Francois Delattre.

In 1981 Emile Guelton stole the painting, a one-of-a-kind print, and then he sold the work to a gallery in San Antonio,Tex. in 1985. It was purchased by a gallery employee for $8,500. The new owner planned to sell the painting to Sotheby’s in 2003.

However, several agencies that track down stolen cultural property got involved when the Art Loss Register identified the work as stolen in the auction house catalogue. International and U.S. government agencies got involved and seized the monotype. The owner unsuccessfully appealed the actions.

A Pissarro is an important work, not only because of his own masterly skills but he was a mentor to Paul Cezanne and Paul Gauguin and Pissarro exhibited in all the important Impressionist shows during his lifetime.

In November 2011 the repatriation process was ordered. The ceremony took place at the Kreeger Museum.