Stolen Beverly Hills Rodin Recovered After 24 Years Comes Up For Sale
The statue raised a red flag when it turned up at auction.
This story is the stuff of film. An Auguste Rodin statue that was stolen from a Beverly Hills mansion 24 years ago was finally recovered after it popped up at a Christie’s auction. The work, which was estimated to sell for around $100,000, had been consigned and was subsequently withdrawn.
Now, following a settlement brokered with the help of London-based Art Recovery Group led by CEO Christopher Marinello, the statue, Young Girl With a Serpent (circa 1886), will be consigned for sale this year, with no claims to hinder it.
The saga started back in 1991, when thieves raided the house in question numerous times while the owners were out of town, each time taking artworks. On one occasion, their bounty included Rodin’s Young Girl With a Serpent.
The thieves gained access to the unoccupied home with the help of a disgruntled housekeeper. At a local bar, the housekeeper had bragged about his wealthy employers and drawn the attention of interested patrons who convinced him to duplicate the house key and sell it to them for $5,000.
When the victims, whom Art Recovery did not identify, finally returned home, they described the house as having “been hit by an earthquake.” Over $1 million in jewelry, artwork, and other Rodin works remain missing.
When the couple reported their suspicions about the housekeeper’s involvement, the Beverly Hills police department discovered that there had been an arrest warrant issued for him in his native Switzerland. They tracked him to Miami, Florida, where he was arrested poolside, sunbathing at a hotel.
The thieves were never found and none of the other artworks stolen from the home have ever been recovered.
Things turned contentious when the Rodin was identified after it had been consigned in New York, then shipped to London for a Christie’s February 2011 sale.
After three and a half years of wrangling between Interpol, a stubborn consignor, and insurance companies, Art Recovery was appointed to lead negotiations between the victims and the consignor’s lawyer. Eventually, the consignor unconditionally relinquished title to the work and it was then offered back to the victims of the theft in line with the terms of their insurance policy.
Marinello said the case is “a perfect example of public and private sector collaboration.” He thanked the police for their “steadfast determination” for keeping the case open for 24 years and seeing it through to its resolution, and said Christie’s had been very cooperative.
Marinello added, “This concludes a four-year battle with an obstinate consignor who, thanks to some first-rate police work by Officer Michael Corren (and a little legal arm twisting from me) was made to understand that in the US, a thief cannot convey good title.”
As part of the resolution, the work will be consigned for sale later this year.
The caretaker, whose name was not released, served time in prison in the US and was reportedly extradited to Switzerland where he served an additional sentence. He is now living in Europe and working as a “life coach.”
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