Rodin sculpture found in New Jersey town hall

By Daniel Uria  |  Oct. 22, 2017 at 7:04 PM
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Oct. 22 (UPI) -- An archivist in New Jersey discovered a multi-million dollar sculpture by French sculptor Auguste Rodin at a town hall.

The bust of Napoleon Bonaparte was put on display at the Hartley Dodge Memorial building, which serves as the town of Madison's town hall, after curator of collections Mallory Mortillaro identified the work of art in 2014.

Mortillaro discovered the bust pressed against a wall and recognized it as a possible Rodin before sliding her hand along the side of the sculpture to discover the famous artist's signature.

"That's weird, I thought. Why does it say Rodin?" she said.

The sculpture had been donated without paperwork so Mortillaro informed the trustees of her finding and emphatically encouraged them to authenticate the piece.

"She said, 'You don't understand. I think we have a Rodin,'" Nicolas Platt, the foundation's president, said.

Mortillaro reached out to various scholars to confirm the sculpture's authenticity before finally getting in contact with Rodin expert Jerome Le Blay, formerly of the Rodin Museum in Paris, who offered to fly from Paris to see the piece.

The piece was ultimately authenticated, but an announcement was delayed due to insurance and security concerns.

The Napoleon sculpture is worth at least $4 million, but Platt said the foundation has no plans to sell the unique piece of art.

People are curators their entire lives and don't end up finding a blue whale in a boat. That's what [Mortillaro] did," Platt said.

Mortillaro attended the unveiling and was on hand to answer questions about the sculpture and its origins.

"It's a really special thing to be able to give to the world," she said.

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