Sunday, June 23, 2024

Cyrus Dallin’s “Praying Knight” has been recovered and will likely return in the fall to Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, from which it has been missing since 1980.

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Cambridge Police recovered a rare bronze statue by artist Cyrus Dallin titled “Praying Knight” from a home in Somerville on Tuesday. It had been missing since 1980 and will likely be re-installed and rededicated next fall at its original home: Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, where it honored students slain in war.

Representatives of the Cambridge School Department and the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum expressed gratitude to Detective Brian O’Connor and the Cambridge Police Department for recovering the long-lost work.

Dallin was commissioned to create the work in 1929, when he lived in Arlington, as a memorial to 11 students from CRLS, then known as Cambridge High and Latin, who died in World War I.

The 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.

The existence of “Praying Knight,” also known as “Modern Crusader,’ came to light when Heather Leavell, co-chairwoman of the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, was contacted by Boston art dealer Andrew Zieff.

Zieff had requested help identifying a bronze signed by Dallin 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, who is also the Arlington Town Meeting moderator, she immediately contacted the superintendent’s office of Cambridge public schools. 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.

Representatives of the school department and Dallin museum are discussing the possibility of displaying the statue at the museum this summer.

The recovery occurred during a successful and productive year for the Cambridge public schools and the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum.

Cambridge has recently completed a $112 million renovation of the high school, and the Dallin museum is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the sculptor’s birth. 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 — Superintendant M.E. Fitzgerald, School Committee member Edmund McGreenery, art instructor Lois Doyle and Headmaster L.L. Cleveland — wanted “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 Dallin — it is believed at his home studio on Oakland Road — 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” 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 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 Cleveland, a memorial address by 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 again grace the halls of Cambridge Rindge & Latin, where it will serve as meaningful remembrance of those who gave their lives during World War I and subsequent military conflicts.

The Dallin Art Museum is at 611 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington It 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 For information about the museum or to arrange a group tour, call (781) 641-0747 or send e-mail to [email protected].