At the end of August we wrote about a bust of Benjamin Franklin by the famous French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon stolen from the home of a Bryn Mahr couple George andBrenda D’Angelo. Police suspected a housekeeper Andrea Lawton who disappeared at the same time as the bust. Well Philly.com has reported that police have nabbed the wayward Lawton who is also known as Andrea Gresham. It appears that Lawton took the bust to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama before finally being caught in Elkton, Md. Unfortunately, the porcelain sculpture has sustained damage as the breastplate was cracked. Philly.com reports,
The 25-pound, 28-inch-high bust was made in 1778 by Jean-Antoine Houdon while Franklin was visiting Paris. There are only three others like it in existence.
A framed case containing a picture of Victor Herbert, a conductor’s baton, an autograph, and a list of his music – valued at $80,000 – was also gone. D’Angelo said police told him that piece was still missing.
“It’s a bizarre story,” D’Angelo said. “She said she doesn’t know anything about Victor Herbert” and may have disposed of the picture at a secondhand shop without realizing its value.
Police and the FBI traced the address of Lawton, who has four burglary convictions, to Hazelhurst Street in Philadelphia, but when she didn’t return there, the FBI tracked her to Mobile, her hometown.
On Sept. 19, a witness told the FBI that Lawton “still had possession of the bust, and that she intended to transport it outside of Alabama in order to sell it on the black market.”
“It’s like stealing Venus de Milo from the Louvre,” said D’Angelo. “What in heaven’s name would you think she was going to do with it?”
D’Angelo said he was worried the brass framework supporting the porcelain head was broken during the bust’s adventure, in addition to the crack in the breastplate.
The FBI’s Philadelphia public affairs supervisor, J.J. Klaver, declined to answer questions other than to say Lawton was under arrest and the bust had been recovered.
Members of the Lower Merion Police Department and the Maryland state police assisted the FBI on the case.
A detention hearing for Lawton in federal court in Philadelphia is to be scheduled for this week.