AVALUABLE late 19th century bronze artwork has been stolen from the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG).
The stolen 71cm sculpture General Lazare Hoche by French sculptor Jules Dalou
The sculpture, entitled General Lazare Hoche, by French sculptor Jules Dalou, was stolen from the gallery on Wednesday, 12 January.
“This is very sad,” says the chief curator of the gallery, Antoinette Murdoch. “I ask the public to come forward with any information they may have.”
Special investigators and the SAPS are actively working on retrieving the artwork, she adds.
The sculpture is 71cm tall, and depicts Hoche, a French soldier who rose to the position of general, leading the French army into several European battles, according to Wikipedia. He died in 1797 and is remembered in a statue in the Palace of Versailles in Paris.
The sculpture was created in preparation for a monument that was later erected in Brittany, France, according to the JAG. Other significant sculptures by Dalou include the 1889 Triumph of the Republic, and the 1885 Le Triomphe de Silène, both on display in parks in the French capital.
“The loss of this beloved sculpture came as a shock to gallery staff. It is feared that the sculpture will be sold as scrap,” reads a press statement from the gallery. On the same day, a potential theft of two sculptures was averted at the Central Reference Library in the CBD. The library is closed for renovation at present.
There have been several thefts from the gallery over the years. In 2004, A Normandy Beach, an 1863 canvas by Johann Barthold Jongkind, was stolen.
In 2002, Apostle Thomas, an oil on canvas by El Greco, was pulled from its frame and stolen. It has not been recovered. Also in 2002, a sculpture entitled Suitcase by Kendell Geers disappeared but was later found in Joubert Park, alongside the gallery.
In 1996, one of the figures of a bronze two-figure sculpture by David Brown went missing. It was found in a scrap yard in Cape Town and was restored and returned to the gallery.
Murdoch says there are nine security staff at the gallery, but more staff will be employed. “Gallery staff and management are fully aware of the fact that the system is still lacking and are working incessantly on improvements.”