In the sleepy borough of Madison, New Jersey, the trustees of a foundation have found a major lost work by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. The marble bust of Napoléon Bonaparte (from around 1908), which experts had lost track of in the late 1920s, had been sitting in a town hall committee room. After being authenticated by a Rodin expert, the work is due to go on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by the end of October, in time for the centenary of the artist’s death next month.
Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge is the key to how the sculpture arrived in Madison. The daughter of William D. Rockefeller and an avid art collector, she provided the funds for the Neo-Classical Hartley Dodge Memorial Building, erected in 1935 and named after her son, who had died in a car accident. According to recent research done by the foundation that oversees the preservation of the historic town hall, she had acquired Rodin’s bust at auction the year before from the family of Thomas Fortune Ryan, a tobacco magnate, who had loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1915 to 1929.
Dodge, who lived on a 300-acre estate in Madison, decorated the government building with works from her personal collection. “She was always bringing things in the building, and evidently this was one of them,” explains Nicolas Platt, the president of the Hartley Dodge Foundation. “But there was no paper work.” Read more