A nine-inch silver statuette purchased at a French flea market in the 1980s is an unknown work by 19th century master Auguste Rodin, a French art expert announced Thursday.
Gilles Perrault presented a 60-page report to reporters in Paris that purports to authenticate the work, which depicts a female figure, as that of Rodin.
Perrault, himself a sculptor, is an official art expert for France’s Cour de Cassation who has carried out more than 750 appraisals connected to Rodin’s work, including being hired to sniff out fakes, according to Agence France-Presse.
Perrault says he has studied the figure, which depicts a female figure, curbed over as if in pain, with a draped fabric clenched between her thighs, for 24 years and is now “intimately convinced” it is by the sculptor, who lived from 1840 to 1917, the wire service added.
The statue itself was not displayed for security reasons.
Rodin was a prolific artistic, producing thousands of busts, figure, and sculptural fragments over a career that spanned more than five decades.
Among his best-known works are The Thinker, The Kiss, The Age of Bronze and The Gates of Hell.
The silver statuette in question first surfaced in the 1980s after an antiques dealer from the Western French city of Nantes spotted it in a flea market, and sold it to its current owner, a private collector.
“He believes it was carried out around 1886, and that it is a reference to Rodin’s tortured affair with his lover and disciple Camille Claudel – specifically to several abortions which she is believed to have undergone during their time together,” according to Agence France-Presse.
“I decided to make my research public because we are finding more and more evidence that points in this direction,” said Perrault, who has kept the Rodin museum in Paris informed of his investigation, step by step.
However, officials with the Rodin Museum in Paris, contacted earlier this week, were not convinced.
“We are very, very skeptical, in the absence of documents referring to the existence of such a silver statuette, or to any other works that relate to it,” said the museum’s asset curator Aline Magnien.
“This work has no pedigree,” she said. “Gilles Perrault has created a fiction.”