Stories of Stolen Sculptures
Beautiful things attract more than the eyes of admirers. Those with malicious intent behind their eyes may find themselves tempted to take what is not rightfully theirs, often with the intention of making a little bit of money from the heist. Of course, none of this cash goes into the pockets of the talented people who make the stolen artistic works, instead funding the lifestyles of those who contribute nothing to culture other than their greed and avarice.
Of course, we have all heard stories of stolen artworks throughout the centuries. The Nazis were infamous for hoarding famous works of arts during their attempts to take over Europe and no less than the Mona Lisa has fallen into the hands of thieves at some point.
However, instead of looking at those more famous instances of thievery, I have instead decided to take a look at some stories of stolen sculptures that have, thankfully, found their way back into the hands of their rightful owners. Not all of these sculptures have achieved the level of fame that many other pieces of art have, but each has its own unique story to tell that I think you will find interesting.
The Case of the Bronze Horse
For our first tale I whisk you away to the United Kingdom to explore the sage of a bronze horse that mysteriously went missing. Curved Neck Grace, which is a masterpiece of equine display created by British sculptor John W. Mills, was stolen from its home in the early 21st century, much to the disappointment of its owners. Though one of six commissioned pieces, the loss was still felt both emotionally and financially, as the piece was worth tens of thousands of pounds.
The sculpture disappeared from its rightful place in the garden of St Ippolyts in Hertfordshire one evening in 2009 and sold to somebody at an antiques fair soon afterwards. It is there where the trail went cold for a number of years, with the buyer unaware that the piece was stolen and the thieves disappearing into the night with their ill-gotten games.
All hope to recover the piece had surely been lost by 2016. That is until the screening of a BBC programme named Inside Out East during that very same year. A friend of the original owner just happened to be watching the program one fateful evening and noticed the sculpture, in all of its glory, on display in Dunstable, Bedfordshire.
A few calls were made and the shocked owner of the sculpture discovered its origins. Rightfully, he returned the Curved Neck Grace to the authorities, despite having had no part in the theft, and it is believed that the noble horse will find a home somewhere else soon, perhaps to be put on display in all of her glory again, in the very near future.
Though I haven’t seen this sculpture in person, from the pictures I have seen it looks to be a remarkable piece of work that truly captures the beauty of its magnificent subject. I couldn’t help but feel the urge to go horseback riding upon viewing it for the first time and I truly commend the efforts of Mills, who is clearly a talented sculptor, in its creation. I am also delighted that this wonderful piece of art did not find its way into the hands of scrap metal dealers, as it would not surprise me at all to discover that the people capable of taking such a remarkable piece would fail to recognize its actual value and instead choose to sell it for the base value of the metals use in its creation.
Rodin is Not Immune
We move on from that story that one that involves an artists that I’m sure many of you will be familiar with. Auguste Rodin is perhaps one of the most famous sculptors of the modern era. The man was capable of doing things with clay that are truly remarkable, so it should come as no surprise that criminals have eyed his works at various points throughout history.
Much like Mills, Rodin also specialized in bronze work and it is one of his most stunning pieces, Young Girl With Serpent that fell victim to thieves. The year was 1991 and the piece was on display in a home in Beverley Hills when it was snatched, seemingly never to be seen again.
There were no signs of the sculpture for many years, to the point where law enforcement called of its search for it. However, much like with the Curved Neck Grace, a remarkable twist of fortune led to its rediscovery.
In 2010 Jérôme Le Blay, who just happens to be part of the Comité Rodin in Paris, attended an auction at the famous Christie’s in London when he laid eyes on Young Girl With Serpent. Instantly recognizing the piece, as you would expect of a Rodin scholar, he put the wheels in motion for its eventual recovery. Though sometimes impenetrable secrecy of the art world often acted as an obstacle, the sculpture finally found its way back to its original owner in 2015.
As a sad postscript to this story, Young Girl With Serpent was not the only sculpture stolen during the 1991 Beverley Hill’s heist, which was shockingly arranged by the homeowner’s housekeeper. Another Rodin piece, L’Eternel Printemps also disappeared and, unlike its companion piece, has yet to be tracked down. Perhaps, in time, I will be able to recount the story of the recovery of L’Eternel Printemps on this website as well.