A statue by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin was stolen from the Israel Museum during renovations.
The bronze sculpture, "Naked Balzac with Folded Arms" was cast between 1892 and 1893 and was one of a series Rodin made while preparing a Paris monument to the French novelist and playwright Honore de Balzac.
The French writers guild, headed by Emile Zola, commissioned Rodin to create a monument to Balzac in 1891. Rodin worked on the project for eight years and cast several statues of Balzac, some of which are on display in museums throughout the world. The final version of the sculpture is at the monument, on Raspail Boulevard in Paris.
Art historian Stephanie Rahum wrote in her book on Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in the Israel Museum collection that Rodin considered the memorial his most important and daring work.
The stolen statue, which shows the writer in a belligerent stance, was donated to the Israel Museum by the Jewish American art collector Billy Rose, and had been on exhibit in the museum's sculpture garden, which bears his name.
The museum management says the sculpture was discovered to be missing three months ago when the time came to put it back in its place in the garden after the renovation of the past few years was completed. The museum filed a complaint with the Jerusalem police and has also begun an internal investigation.
The statue is 127 centimeters high and 61 centimeters wide, and could not have been moved without a crane and a truck.
A source close to security in the Israel Museum told Haaretz that the museum does not check the sculptures in the Billy Rose Garden daily, and that the garden has no security cameras or night lighting. The source also said that security arrangements were not changed after the theft was discovered.
The Israel Museum denied the claims about its security arrangements, adding: "We will not discuss security arrangements in the newspaper." The museum said it was not at liberty to go into further detail because the matter was under police investigation.
The value of "Naked Balzac with Folded Arms" is difficult to assess. However, another Rodin sculpture, "The Kiss," was auctioned at Sotheby's in 2009 for $3.44 million, while Rodin's "Eve" went for almost $19 million. "Naked Balzac" is believed to be less valuable that those sculptures.
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