Friday, September 23, 2011


If you’re thinking unlucky sculptures, think The Thinker. Next to Michelangelo’s David, Rodin’s bronze must be one of the most recognised sculptural images in the world. It also immortalised the thoughtful pose that has launched a million back cover author photos over the years. Thanks for that Auguste.

But The Thinker is back in the wars, most particularly in Argentina. Here the only copy of the sculpture that is located outdoors (all the other 20 full-sized copies are in museums or private collections) has been sprayed pink. The Buenos Aires city council claims not to know why the sculpture has been defaced (although pink and the sexual symbol for female on its arm feels like a clue) but has decided to soldier on and water blast the paint off the statue. This has caused conservators the world over to pale at the thought of the potential damage to the work’s patina.

This is not the first time one of The Thinker has been attacked. The most famous occasion was at the Cleveland Museum of Art back in 1970 when a pipe bomb was stuck between The Thinker’s feet and blew them apart on detonation. Remarkably the Museum decided to leave the sculpture on display in its damaged state as a memory of the civil unrest that had swept America at that time. The damaged work is still on view and is cared for by the Museum like any other of their sculptural works with regular cleaning and rewaxing.

Another recent attack on The Thinker was more prosaic. Thieves attempted to cut up a smaller sized version of the work owned by the Singer Museum in Netherlands for the resale price of the bonze. Stupid really as the bronze at that time would have only fetched around $600 while there was a $1.66 million valuation on the sculpture itself. Panicking when they realised they had nicked a high profile artwork the thieves buried it in a garden. It was later recovered but unfortunately the other six sculptures stolen at the same time did not escape the melting pot.
Images: The Thinker top to bottom, Argentina, Cleveland and The Netherlands