CTV News —
Two massive bronze statues sculpted by a celebrated Quebec artist and worth about $1 million were retrieved in a wooded area near Montreal on Tuesday after going missing a day earlier.
The large statues, which were stolen by thieves who apparently wanted to sell them for scrap, were sculpted by famed Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle about four decades ago.
For years, the five-foot, 300-kilogram figures had stood outside of Riopelle’s former studio in Esterel, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
The sculptures, named “La Dafaite” or “The Defeat,” were damaged during the theft. Sgt. Eloise Cossette said that taking the works from their perch required the thieves to drag them along the ground.
The thefts unfolded on Monday, after locals noticed that the works had been knocked off their stone pedestals.
Later that day, a security guard working for the municipality called police after he spotted three suspicious men hanging around the statues.
By the time officers reached the scene, the sculptures were gone.
On Tuesday, a tip led police to a wooded area where the sculptures were found. Unfortunately, the works had been broken into several pieces.
CTV Montreal’s Stephane Giroux reported that since the sculptures were broken up, it’s believed that the thieves had hoped to sell the bronze so it could be melted down. It also appears that the thieves were unaware of the statues’ million-dollar value.
The artist’s widow Huguette Vachon said it’s a shame that thieves would attempt to destroy such celebrated works, and she added that doing so is tantamount to destroying a piece of Quebec’s artistic history.
At the time of his death, Riopelle was worth more than $50 million and was known internationally. However, his studio in the Laurentian town of Esterel is unguarded and the sculptures were accessible to the public.
Vachon said that the works will no longer be kept outside.
Champlain Charest, a friend of the late artist, said that the sculptures had become well-known works in Riopelle’s oeuvre
Charest added that close calls with thieves had also forced him to remove some Riopelle paintings from his own home.