Vandal decapitates historic statue at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum

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Late last week, a vandal decapitated a well-known statue on the grounds of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor museum. Museum curators were initially shocked, but now they just want the pieces returned so they can be reattached to the statue.

The statue, known as ‘The Laocoön Group’, depicts the Greek god Laocoön and his two sons in a fight with a horde of serpents sent by Athena and Poseidon for trying to warn the Trojans about the horse’s trick of wood that led to the fall of Troy. He was defaced in three places – the heads of both sons were completely removed and part of Laocoön’s leg was also damaged, according to ABC7. The statue is located to the left of the museum’s main entrance, near the bronze statue of Joan of Arc by Anna Hyatt Huntington.

“It’s really sad,” curator of European arts and sculpture for the Legion of Honor, Martin Chapman, told ABC7. “It is a loss for the museum and the people of San Francisco because it is a work of art that has been vandalized for no reason.”

Although not an original, it is a reproduction of the same statue discovered in 1506 on the vines of Federico De Fredis and kept in the Vatican. The original carving dates back to around 200 BC. In his book “The Natural History”, the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder suggests that the sculpture was designed by Agesander, Polydorus and Athenodorus. The marble replica of the Legion of Honor was donated to the museum in 1930, although the museum’s website does not specify who carved it.

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is located in the Presidio and is part of the San Francisco Museums of Fine Arts, the city’s largest public art institution. The museum houses works of art that span over 6,000 years of ancient history.

Although there was no surveillance video of the incident, the SFPD is investigating the crime. Museum staff hope a council from the public will also help with the search.

“What we would like to do,” Chapman said, “is recover the most essential missing pieces and restore the object.”

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