A case involving a Rodin sculpture stolen from a Beverly Hills mansion after a Swiss housekeeper bragged about his employers’ wealth has been solved after 24 years. Young Girl with Serpent (1886), estimated to be worth around $100,000, was looted in 1991 along with other works of art valued at more than $1m.
Six months after the theft, the Beverly Hills Police Department tracked down the housekeeper who had sold a duplicate of his employers’ house keys to a criminal gang for $5,000. He was arrested while sunbathing by a pool in Miami. However, the whereabouts of the Rodin remained unknown until it was consigned to Christie’s London in 2011.
An investigation was launched and the unnamed wife of the original owner, now in her 80s, was notified of the discovery. After fours years of legal wrangling with the consignor, her insurers employed Christopher Marinello, the chief executive of Art Recovery International, to negotiate the return of the Rodin, which he did in April this year.
“[The consignor] was persuaded to release the sculpture unconditionally,” Marinello says. He credits Detective Sergeant Michael Corren of the Beverly Hills Police Department for “doggedly pursuing” the case, even after he had retired. “This is the height of art policing,” Marinello says.
Other works stolen in 1991, including an early sketch of Rodin’s The Kiss and another sculpture, The Eternal Spring, have not been recovered. Young Girl with Serpent is due to be auctioned later this year to offset the owner’s insurance costs.