It had barely escaped destruction during the Revolution, had remained in private hands since 1813, before being the subject of a fierce legal battle: an exceptional medieval statuette finally found Saturday Dijon, where the tombs are exposed from where it had been uprooted over 200 years ago.
The alabaster statuette, forty centimeters high, was part of a group of 82 "weepers", representations of religious or family members, that medieval tradition used to install at the foot of the tombs of illustrious people.
Sculpted in the 15th century, they wore eternal mourning in arches dug under the tombs of Philippe le Hardi, the first Duke of Burgundy, and his son and successor Jean sans Peur as well as his wife, Marguerite de Bavière.
During the Revolution, the tombs were destroyed but the mourners were saved. After being dispersed, most are found at the beginning of the 19th century and reinstalled at the foot of reconstructions of "tombs" (in fact empty cenotaphs), since exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Dijon.
But "Weeping n ° 17", or "Weeping quenching tears", had an even more turbulent history.
Falling into the hands of private owners in 1813, the statuette reappeared in 2014 when the latter asked for an authorization to leave the territory to be able to sell it, after having estimated it at 3 million euros. The heritage department tells them that the sculpture does not belong to them and claims its restitution.
Then follows a long legal battle which will end with the victory of the State, in June 2018 and, finally, the return to Dijon.
"The reunion of this statuette is the result of the mobilization of the services of the Ministry of Culture in order to claim the State property right over cultural property in the public domain, held without legal basis by private persons", s' is congratulated on Saturday in a statement the ministry.
The statuette, first presented in a window, will be installed again at the foot of the tomb of Philippe le Hardi in a few weeks.
Considered as jewels of medieval sculpture, the mourners amazed many visitors. Stendhal found their expression "truly admirable". And, in 2010, the forty or so statuettes which adorn the tomb of Jean sans Peur carried out for two years a world tour with great success, from New York to Los Angeles, Dallas or Berlin.
Today, the mourners find themselves united but seven are still missing: four are kept at the Cleveland Museum of Art (United States) and three remain missing.
© 2020 AFP