Found marble bust of Napoleon executed by Auguste Rodin

A bust of Napoleon executed by Auguste Rodin, made in 1908 and then lost in the 1920s, has been found.

A sculpture executed by French sculptor Auguste Rodin has been found. It is the marble bust of Napoleon Bonaparte that the transalpine artist is said to have made in about 1908, which was then lost in the late 1920s. The sculpture was found in America, in a city hall room in Madison, New Jersey.

After being authenticated by an expert, the sculpture will go on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by the end of October, in time for the centennial of the artist’s death. According to recent research conducted by the foundation that oversees the preservation of the historic town hall, Geraldine Rockefeller, daughter of tycoon William D. Rockefeller as well as an art collector, had purchased the bust of Rodin from the family of Thomas Fortune Ryan, a tobacco magnate, who loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum in New York from 1915 to 1929.

Geraldine lived on a 300-acre estate right in Madison, and had decorated City Hall with works from her own personal collection. No one had filed or inventoried it, however, and as a result Rodin’s Napoleon fell into obscurity until 2015, when the foundation hired an archivist. Mallory Mortillaro, a 22-year-old student, discovered the provenance of the bust, signed by Auguste Rodin.

That’s when specialist Jerome Le Blay was contacted, who authenticated the statue. “I was immediately struck by the pictures they emailed me,” she said, "so we found the origin of this marble in Rodin’s workshop. A 1910 photograph in fact shows the sculptor posing next to the bust, titled “Napoleon enveloppé dans ses réves” (“Napoleon wrapped in his dreams”). The sculpture was estimated at between $4 million and $12 million.

Pictured is the rediscovered bust.

Found marble bust of Napoleon executed by Auguste Rodin
Found marble bust of Napoleon executed by Auguste Rodin

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