For the Legion of Honor and local San Franciscans, it’s something of a Greek tragedy.
A Greek sculpture at the San Francisco museum is missing two heads and part of one leg after an apparent act of vandalism last week. The museum has covered up the marble work, called The Laocoön Group, as it confers with its curatorial staff and local authorities about what to do next—and whether the missing pieces can be recovered.
The Carrara marble sculpture is an early 20th-century reproduction of a famous ancient Roman statue in the Vatican Museums. It depicts the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus writhing in pain as they are attacked by sea serpents.
The Legion of Honor’s version, by an unknown artist, has stood outside the museum since it was donated in the early 1930s.
— Cornell Barnard (@CornellBarnard) December 4, 2021
A spokesperson for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which includes the de Young and the Legion of Honor, told Artnet News the sculpture suffered surface damage in addition to the decapitation of the two son figures and the removal of a large section of Laocoön’s leg.
The museum is working with the San Francisco Police Department, the spokesperson said, to assess the situation and recover the sculpture’s missing parts.
“This is really sad, this is a loss to the museum and people of San Francisco because this is a piece of art that’s been vandalized wantonly,” Martin Chapman, the Legion of Honor’s curator of European arts and sculpture, told ABC7.
According to the museum spokesperson, the other works on the grounds—Rodin’s Thinker and a statue of Joan of Arc by Anna Hyatt Huntington—were not damaged.
Local press reported that the museum does not have security footage of the incident, although the museum declined to confirm that detail to Artnet News. The spokesperson also declined to specify whether any evidence was left behind, citing the ongoing investigation.