The piece was last seen in an exhibition in 1949.
Glasgow Museums, which purchased the statue from Auguste Rodin in 1901, has said that the piece is currently “unlocated” in its art collections.
The sculpture was a part of the French artist’s “Les Bourgeois de Calais” group and was one of the numerous plaster versions.
From June 25 to September 30, 1949, it was part of an exhibit at Kelvingrove Park. According to the Comité Rodin, the two-meter sculpture represents Jean d’Aire, one of the figures in the Calais group.
A spokesperson for Glasgow Life has said that the sculpture suffered damage while on display and that authorities lost track of it after that open-air exhibition.
The Comité Rodin’s director, Jérôme le Blay, explained that though its disappearance is regrettable, there was not much interest in plaster works in the 1940s. But he did estimate that the sculpture’s value would be at around $3.7 million today.
Les Bourgeois de Calais
The Jean d’Aire figure is one of the six colossal statues that make up the monument of this group. The six men were fourteenth-century citizens from the French town of Calais. They offered themselves up as hostages so that the English would lift the siege on their starving town.
In 1884, Rodin won the commission to create the monument honoring Calais’ ancient identity. The sculptor portrayed the men with symbols of submission, as they were expecting execution once they reached the English camp.
“Rodin conceived the burghers less as ideally noble heroes than as ordinary men, ragged and emaciated after the ordeal of the siege, each experiencing a personal confrontation with death,” wrote the National Gallery of Art.
According to le Blay, a piece depicting John the Baptist was at the same Kelvingrove exhibit. This statue broke and is now in storage at the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre. The Comité Rodin director hopes that the missing sculpture will be found in its archives later on as well.
Thousands of pieces from Scottish museums, the British Museum, and Museum Wales have also disappeared. They were either stolen or simply misplaced or misclassified.
Meanwhile, other plaster and bronze versions of Rodin’s “Les Bourgeois de Calais” are on display worldwide. They can be found at the Musée Rodin in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and Victoria Tower Gardens in London, just to name a few.
Banner image from the the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection via Wikimedia Commons.