A statue by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, part of his famous Les Bourgeois de Calais group, is currently “unlocated” in Glasgow’s art collections, museum officials have said.
The plaster sculpture, bought by Glasgow Museums from the artist in 1901, was exhibited in Kelvingrove Park from 25 June to 30 September 1949, according to Glasgow Life, the organisation in charge of many of the Scottish city’s cultural venues. But since then, it seems to have been lost.
According to the Comité Rodin, which maintains a catalogue of the artist’s works around the world, the 2-metre sculpture represents Jean d’Aire, one of the figures in the Calais group.
Its director, Jérôme le Blay, told AFP that the disappearance was “regrettable, but must be put into the context of the times”, as plaster works did not arouse much interest in the 1940s. The value of the work today would be around €3.5m (£3m), he estimated.
The bronze statues of the six Bourgeois de Calais, celebrating the sacrifice of local dignitaries during a siege of the northern French town by English armies during the hundred years war, were commissioned by the municipality and unveiled in 1895. Numerous bronze and plaster versions of the statue exist around the world.
The missing statue had “suffered damage” at the time of the 1949 open-air exhibition, according to Glasgow Life.
Comité Rodin believes it could have suffered the same fate as another statue by the artist representing John the Baptist, which was exhibited at the same time at Kelvingrove. That broke, and its remains are stored at the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre.
Le Blay hopes that the remains of the “unlocated” piece may similarly be found in the archives at a later date.
About 1,750 other objects have disappeared from Scottish museums, including gold coins linked to Queen Mary I of Scotland, who reigned in the 16th century, according to the Times.
The British Museum also recently acknowledged the theft of thousands of items from its reserves, prompting the resignation of its director.
Museum Wales, the institution managing seven national museums in Wales, has discovered that it is missing 2,000 objects, according to the BBC. The organisation claims that many of the items may simply have been misplaced or misclassified and that they could be found as the inventory check progresses.