Degas' Les Choristes
Edgar Degas' Les Choristes Musée d'Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

A painting by the French master Edgar Degas that had been lost for almost a decade has been found on a bus near Paris, authorities in the country have said.

French customs said that the painting entitled "Les Choristes" from 1877 was found in the luggage compartment of a bus, nine years after it was stolen from a museum in Marseille where it was on loan.

"The protection of cultural heritage is one of our missions," French customs said as they announced the recovery.

French Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen said that she welcomed the discovery and the continued fight against the trafficiking of cultural goods, adding that she was pleased the work would be returned to the Musée d'Orsay.

"In this European Year of cultural heritage, the mobilisation of the customs force will continue and we shall work to bring about a renewed European monitoring system!" Minister for Public Action and Accounts, Gérald Darmanin said.

The Ministry of Culture said that the discovery was made on Friday 16 February after customs found a suitcase with the name 'Degas' which no passengers admitted owning. The Musée d'Orsay later confirmed the painting's authenticity.

'Les Choristes' is notable as the only of Degas' opera inspired work not to feature dancers. AFP reported that the work is thought to be worth around €800,000 (£700,000). The painting will now take a special place at the 2019 Degas At The Opera exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay.

In 2016, French customs handled over 71 cases involving cultural property and seized more than 10,000 works of art. In 2017, France returned eight Egyptian antiques that had been discovered in the luggage of a British person travelling through Gare du Nord - the pieces were thought to be over 3,000 years old.