Rodin statue missing from Israel Museum

Sculpture was part of Rodin series "Studies for a Nude of Balzac"; museum has not elaborated on details of the disappearance.

March 9, 2011 13:59
1 minute read.
Statue by Auguste Rodin

statue by Auguste Rodin 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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A valuable statue by Auguste Rodin was stolen from the Israel Museum’s sculpture garden during the museum’s extensive renovations.

The statue, Balzac Nude with Arms Crossed, was reported missing about three months ago. It was discovered immediately after the theft and reported to the police, said a museum official.

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An investigation is ongoing, and both the museum and Jerusalem police refused to comment on the investigation.

The bronze statue is 127 cm tall and quite heavy. It would be nearly impossible to move the statue without a vehicle.

Major renovations finished on the Israel Museum last summer, though parts of the Billy Rose Sculpture garden are still under renovation. The sculpture garden is planned to completely reopen to the public sometime in 2011. A museum official said that the Rodin sculpture was the only piece of artwork that was stolen during the five-year, $100-million renovation, as far as the museum knows.

Museum officials refused to comment on the value of the sculpture, but other Rodin sculptures have been auctioned for $3 million to $19 million.

The sculpture, a nude Balzac with his arms crossed defiantly, was part of a series of sculptures of Honre de Balzac, the founder of the Société des Gens de Lettre (Society of Men of Letters), the most prominent French literary society in the late 19th century. Rodin worked on the series of sculptures of Balzac for more than seven years.

He cast the Israel Museum’s statue in 1892. The statue was donated to the museum in 1966 by Billy Rose, whose name was also given to the sculpture garden on the west slope of the museum’s campus.

“Security is of the utmost importance for the Israel Museum, and given the sensitive nature of these matters, we do not discuss them in detail with the public,” the museum said in a statement on Wednesday.

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