Israel police hunt for missing Rodin sculpture

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Jerusalem police are searching for a work by French sculptor Auguste Rodin, which is believed to have been stolen from the Israel Museum during renovations.

"A sculpture by Auguste Rodin was stolen from the Israel Museum's Billy Rose Sculpture Garden as the campus renewal project was nearing completion," said a brief statement Wednesday by the museum.

"The theft was reported immediately to the police, and an investigation is ongoing."

Museum spokeswoman Dina Wosner said the figure was "a small-format work," one of a series entitled "Studies for a Nude of Balzac," and was cast from Rodin's mould after his death, at some point between 1918-1926.

Haaretz newspaper said the original mould, produced in 1892, was made in preparation for a monument to the writer Honore de Balzac which Rodin had been commissioned to execute by the French Writers' Guild, headed at the time by Emile Zola.

The museum did not elaborate on the circumstances of its disappearance.

"Security is of the utmost importance for the Israel Museum,' the statement said. "Given the sensitive nature of these matters, we do not discuss them in detail with the public."

© 2011 AFP

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