Friday, July 12, 2024

A 1971 art installation by Vusumuzi Maduna at the Martin Luther King School must be protected during upcoming renovations, Mayor Henrietta Davis said Thursday. (Photo: Cambridge Arts Council)

The recovery of a 1929 bronze statue missing from Cambridge Rindge & Latin School for more than three decades has the mayor thinking about protecting other city-owned art.

“This points out the great responsibility that the city has for its valuable artwork, objects that must be protected during construction and restoration,” Mayor Henrietta Davis said Thursday in a press release. “We’ll soon have to make arrangements at the Martin Luther King School.”

The combination upper and elementary school, at 100 Putnam Ave., is the first of three in the city in line for renovations, with design work under way and an ultimate price tag of $76 million to $84 million to be voted by the City Council in September.

It was during reconstruction of the high school in the late 1970s that “Praying Knight,” a 3-foot-high bronze of a knight on horseback by famed Arlington sculptor Cyrus Dallin, disappeared. It had been in place at the school’s Trowbridge Street entrance for nearly 50 years, since its 1930 dedication.

The sculpture surfaced again in May at a home in Somerville after Heather Leavell, co-chairwoman of Arlington’s Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, was contacted by Boston art dealer Andrew Zieff for help identifying it to provide an appraisal for a client. The Somerville family apparently had possession of the sculpture since 1980, when it was designated to return to the high school after renovation but somehow went missing. They willingly returned it after learning its origins.

The recovery was reported Tuesday by police and other officials.

Now Davis is worrying about art at the King School, including a Martin Luther King Memorial sculpture by Vusumuzi Maduna depicting the civil rights struggle, a tiled mosaic and a social justice mural designed and executed by students in collaboration with David Fichter. A decision on storing the pieces while the school is under construction is “soon to be made,” Davis said.

“Plans are under way by the city’s Arts Council in conjunction with the school community to protect these items and to design reinstallations when construction is done,” Davis said. “As for the Dallin sculpture, now is the time to celebrate the return of the ‘Praying Knight’ to its rightful home. We’ll see to it that he comes home to the appropriate fanfare and rededication, probably in the fall.”

According to a July 18 Boston Globe story cited by, the disappearance of the statue was so long ago that Cambridge Police have purged records that would detail whether the artwork was reported stolen at the time.

The father in the family had come home with the statue, and it had been in the home ever since, police spokesman Dan Riviello told the Globe. The father recently died, leading the family to seek an appraisal from Zieff — and to the discovery of the artwork’s significance and proper home.

Police are not filing charges. Riviello said police aren’t releasing the family’s name because they were thrown into the situation through no fault of their own.