UPDATE, 2:40 p.m., Tuesday, July 17
According to the Cambridge Police Department, the Somerville family that had the bronze sculpture was cooperative with the police investigation and willingly returned the sculpture. No charges were filed against them.
Dan Riviello, a spokesperson for the Cambridge Police Department, said the Somerville family did not want to be identified, but Cambridge police released the following statement about the family's involvement.
"The family in possession of the statue sent an inquiry to an art specialist several months ago in an effort to determine what the statue was. That specialist contacted the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, who contacted the Cambridge Police Department to alert them that the statue in question had been missing for over 30 years. After a follow-up investigation by Cambridge Police Detective Brian O'Connor, the family in possession of the statue was located and willingly returned the statue to its rightful owner. No charges were filed."
The following is from the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum.
On Tuesday, May 29, Cambridge Police recovered a rare bronze statue by artist Cyrus Dallin entitled “Praying Knight” from a residence in Somerville.
Dallin was commissioned to create this work in 1929 as a memorial to 11 students from Cambridge Rindge and Latin (then known as Cambridge High and Latin) who died in World War I. This 3-foot high bronze of a knight on horseback was installed inside the school in a niche to the left of the Trowbridge Street entrance in 1930.
“Praying Knight” remained in this location undisturbed for 50 years until 1980 when it disappeared from the school during a renovation project. Representatives of the Cambridge School Department and the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum in Arlington are grateful to Detective Brian O’Connor and the Cambridge Police Department for recovering this long-lost work.
The existence of “Praying Knight,” also known as “Modern Crusader,” came to light when Heather Leavell, co-chair of the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, was contacted by Boston art dealer Andrew Zieff. Zieff had requested help identifying a bronze signed by Dallin in order to provide an appraisal for a client. Leavell immediately recognized this work as Dallin’s “Praying Knight.”
After consulting with the museum’s attorney, John Leone, of Arlington, she immediately contacted the Superintendant’s Office of the Cambridge Public School Department. When police were asked to look into the disappearance they were able to recover the statue with the cooperation of the people in possession of it who willingly returned it to its rightful owner.
The recovery of “Praying Knight” has occurred during a very successful and productive year for both the Cambridge Public Schools and the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum.
Cambridge has recently completed a $118 million renovation of Cambridge Rindge & Latin, integrating state-of-the-art instructional technology, outstanding arts and recreation facilities, and LEED silver designation design standards into an attractive and welcoming high school environment.
The Cyrus Dallin Art Museum is currently celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Dallin. The Museum has sponsored a number of high profile events throughout this anniversary year, including a celebration of Dallin’s Paul Revere monument in the North End. During this event, Mayor Thomas Menino issued proclamations to the museum and to the Dallin family recognizing Cyrus Dallin’s important contributions to public art in the City of Boston.
Articles published in the Cambridge Chronicle on Jan. 24 and May 30, 1930 provide detailed accounts of the commission and dedication of “Praying Knight.” The committee in charge of the project, which included Superintendant M. E. Fitzgerald, school committee member Edmund McGreenery, art instructor Lois Doyle, and Headmaster L.L. Cleveland, desired to "get a man of eminence to make this memorial so that the school might possess a fine object of art in its tribute to the boys who made the supreme sacrifice."
The Committee visited Cyrus Dallin (presumably at his home studio in Arlington) to discuss the commission. By 1929 Dallin was at the height of his career. He was particularly well known in the Boston area for his “Appeal to the Great Spirit,” located in front of the Museum of Fine Arts. The committee accepted Dallin’s submission for the memorial and felt that his portrayal of a knight in the act of prayer “represented the noble and spiritual side of the boys who made the great sacrifice.”
On Thursday, May 29, 1930, in observance of Memorial Day, “Praying Knight” was dedicated with great fanfare. The ceremony included performances by the school orchestra and choir, a bible reading by Headmaster Cleveland, a memorial address by Mayor Russell, a salute to the flag (which included the playing of taps and the singing of the Star Spangled Banner), and remarks by various school and local officials, veterans, and students.
After three decades “Praying Knight” will once again grace the halls of Cambridge Rindge and Latin where it will serve as meaningful remembrance of those who gave their lives during WWI and subsequent military conflicts. The statue will likely be installed and rededicated next fall, and representatives of the Cambridge School Department and the Dallin Museum are currently discussing the possibility of displaying it at the museum this summer.
The Cyrus Dallin Art Museum is located at 611 Massachusetts Ave. in Arlington Center. The museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. For a full list of anniversary programs and events throughout the year, visit http://www.dallin.org. For more information about the museum or to arrange a group tour, please contact 781-641-0747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.