Rodin’s Napoleon found in New Jersey
WASHINGTON - AFP
Napoleon Bonaparte and Auguste Rodin are both household names in their own right. But a bust of the French emperor created by the master sculptor faded into oblivion in an American town, only to be discovered by chance.
The white marble statue was certainly visible in the meeting room of the borough hall of Madison, a municipality of 16,000 people in New Jersey.In fact for some 80 years, the bust was positioned on a pedestal, carelessly leaned on during meetings.But in 2014, a 22-year-old art history student recruited to take inventory of the building’s artworks, came across the bust and noticed a signature that read “A. Rodin” in the sculptor’s immediately recognizable style.
Intrigued by the discovery, Mallory Mortillaro consulted experts and dug into archives, determined to confirm whether it was indeed a genuine Rodin.She was eventually pointed in the direction of the Paris-based Comite Auguste Rodin, the leading authority on the father of modern sculpture.
And the mystery was solved: in the group’s collection of documents was a photograph showing Rodin posing with the bust, which was believed to have been lost.In September 2015, Rodin expert Jerome Le Blay raveled to Madison. He needed only seconds to confirm the authenticity of the piece.
In addition to the hundred-year-old photo, Le Blay confirmed in an interview:
“The stone corresponds exactly with that used by Rodin during that era.” The identification of the statue, worth between $4 and $12 million, paradoxically was cause for concern for the Hartley Dodge Foundation, which manages the building.
“There was no paperwork, there was absolutely no record that it had entered the building,” Nicolas Platt, the foundation’s president, told CBS News.For security reasons, the directors kept the revelation a secret for two years, before announcing last week it was to be transferred to the prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art.