Bronze statue lost and found. On Friday 5 December 2014, a seemingly brazen thief walked off with Medardo Rosso’s Bambino malato (Sick Child), taken from its pedestal in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome. The museum has had security lapses before, including the robbery of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Cézanne in 1998. Though the paintings were recovered, the incident raised concerns about the institution’s ability to protect its collections. Like that case, the Rosso sculpture has been restored to its rightful owners. In fact, it is unclear whether the statue ever left the building, for it was found the next day in a storage locker at the entrance to the museum. Whether the thief had a change of heart or planned to retrieve it later is unknown.
Despite this stroke of good fortune, critics are once again demanding increased attention to protecting Italy’s cultural patrimony and are pointing fingers at the Italian government whose seemingly endless budget cuts may be partly to blame. As art historian Tomaso Montanari complained in La Repubblica, “it is upsetting to see [artwork] taken away from a museum as if it was a self-service pizza.”
Medardo Rosso (1858-1928) was a post-Impressionist sculptor who has been labeled the “Italian Rodin” because of the unfinished (non-finito) quality of his works in bronze, plaster, and wax. Born in Turin, Rosso spent most of his life in Milan, where he attended the Brera Academy, after stints in Rome and Paris.