A sculpture by the French artist Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) valued at $300,000 has been stolen from a Copenhagen Museum (Ny Carlsberg Glypotek). Two men posing as tourists were spotted on cctv in the area at the time the work of art was taken. It is thought that they simply made their way to the Rodin, removed the sculpture and walked away with it in a bag.
The theft took place on July 16th and it is thought to be one of the biggest Danish art thefts in recent memory. The bust titled, ‘The Man with the Broken Nose’ dates from 1863, was taken during the museum’s opening hours. The operation was actioned in only 12 minutes and the thieves were unnoticed by security staff and other museum goers
“It’s terrible. We lost an important work in the collection,” Flemming Friborg, the director at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek told the press. The theft was publicly reported only today. Copenhagen Police said that they are collaborating with Interpol and Europol on the assumption that the theft was a well though-out and perhaps internationally-organized operation. “The perpetrators visited the museum to explore the premises about a week before the theft, and they must have known what they were stealing,” police spokesman Ove Randrup said.
The two men are described by police as between 30 and 40 years old, of average build and between 170-175cm tall. They are possibly eastern Europeans, police said. The men were believed to have visited the museum twice – once to prepare for the heist by loosening the sculpture from the base and disabling its alarm and a second time to actually take it.
The Glyptotek’s Rodin collection is unique outside of France. It contains such major works as “The Kiss”, “The Thinker” and the monumental “Burghers of Calais”.
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is often seen as the rebellious forefather of modern sculpture, but in fact he raised no conscious revolt against the sculpture of his day. Rodin struggled for academic recognition but never managed to pass the entrance examination to the Academy of Arts in Paris.
Instead he was self-taught and developed a unique method for the modelling of complex forms in clay and plaster. Many of his most famous works were criticised in his lifetime. They broke with a tradition of idealised, decorative sculpture with little room to manoeuvre in how mythological or literary subjects could be presented. Rodin’s distinguishing characteristic is a realistic but expressive modelling of the body together with a great sense of the symbolic content of the motif. Slowly he attained popularity and achieved his decisive breakthrough at the World Exposition in Paris in 1900.
Carl Jacobsen, the founder of the Glyptotek, saw Rodin’s masterpiece “The Thinker” at the French Exhibition in Copenhagen in 1888, and from 1900 he began to buy works directly from the artist whom he liked to visit in Paris. Jacobsen’s collection of 24 sculptures has since grown to 43.
Rodin’s ‘The Man with the Broken Nose’. Photo: Scanpix