MANHATTAN (CN) – Nearly a quarter-century after a housekeeper helped loot the sculpture from a Beverly Hills house, French neoclassical master Auguste Rodin’s “Young Girl With Serpent” has been recovered in New York.
Representatives of the London-based Art Recovery Group, whose work with the police led to the statue’s recovery, related the story of the piece’s remarkable journey on Thursday morning.
In 1991, a Beverly Hills family had returned from a vacation to discover that their house looked like it “had been hit by an earthquake.”
With their Swiss housekeeper nowhere to be found, the family learned that thieves had lifted multiple pieces by Rodin among $1 million in stolen artwork and jewelry.
Beverly Hills police soon discovered that the housekeeper had a warrant for his arrest in his native Switzerland.
Within six months of the crime, investigators found the housekeeper sunbathing by the poolside of a Miami hotel, and he quickly admitted to accepting $5,000 payment to create duplicate keys for the thieves, a spokesman for Art Recovery Group said.
The housekeeper claimed to have no knowledge of the looting network, and the company says he met the thieves while “bragging” about his employers’ wealth at a local bar.
After the case went cold for decades, investigators discovered the stolen “Young Girl with Serpent” had been consigned for sale at Christie’s, and Art Recovery Group led the negotiations with the consignor’s representative.
Art Recovery’s chief executive Christopher Marinello said in a phone interview that the housekeeper has taken up new employment as a life coach in Europe after serving his time behind bars in both the United States and Switzerland.
A confidential resolution between the family and the insurance company allows the sculpture to be consigned for sale later this year.
“Young Girl With Serpent” had an estimated value of $100,000 the last time Christie’s had offered it for sale.
Art Recovery Group’s spokesman Jerome Hasler told Courthouse News that the affluent family victimized by the theft had “lived a quiet life and just liked collecting.”
“Now, it’s just one owner who is very elderly,” he added.
In her late 80s, the grandmother is hoping for the return of other Rodin works stolen 24 years ago, including an early sketch of “The Kiss” and a version of “The Eternal Spring.”
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