La Coiffeuse
Pablo Picasso's La Coiffeuse (1911) was last seen on public display in 1998US Department of Justice

US officials have returned to France an oil painting by Pablo Picasso that was stolen from a Paris museum in 2001.

La Coiffeuse (The Hairdresser), valued at $15m (£9.6m, €13.5m), was found in a FedEx shipment from Belgium to Newark, New Jersey, in December 2014.

A label on the shipment had described its contents as a lowly handicraft worth just €30.

In January, the 1911 cubist painting was authenticated by two experts from the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, from where it was stolen 14 years ago.

US customs officials handed it over to the French embassy in Washington on 13 August.

"We are committed to extracting stolen cultural property from the grasp of the black market and restoring to its rightful owners," said chief assistant US attorney Kelly Currie.

"We look forward to seeing this important artwork fully restored and displayed where the public can once again enjoy it."

Frederic Dore, deputy chief at the French embassy, said: "Picasso used to say 'A painting truly exists in the eyes of the beholder'.

"Returning to the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris, France, [La Coiffeuse] will come back to life and be seen again by the public thanks to this outstanding Franco-American customs co-operation."

The investigation into the theft of the painting and its shipping to the US is ongoing.

La Coiffeuse was last seen on public display in Munich, Germany, in 1998.