Angels stolen from atop city’s gorgeous and famous clock

2014-01-16 00:00

THE Pietermaritzburg arts community is outraged by the brazen theft of four priceless dancing angels from atop the beautiful antique Ormolu clock housed in the Tatham Art Gallery.

And they’re demanding the Msunduzi Municipality step up the gallery’s security to protect the collection.

The rare clock is one of the gallery’s biggest drawcards, especially for international visitors.

At the striking of the hour, an ornamental blind, picturing an old English street scene, snaps up, revealing a long table, behind which stand four men dressed in period costume. As the clock chimes, they ring miniature hand-bells in turn.

It was donated to the Municipal Art Gallery — the forerunner to the Tatham — by William Harper, a former city councillor, in 1926, and was made by Messrs A & H Rowley of Grey’s Inn Road, London, around 150 years ago for an Indian rajah.

The missing angels, which were cast from bronze and then gilded, held a globe on each of the four corners of the ebony case.

Each angel is approximately 25 cm tall and stands on one leg, on a fluted dome. The other leg is bent slightly behind, its arms are up and open wings spread behind it.

The theft was discovered late on Monday afternoon when staff went to clean exhibits in the ceramics room on the second floor.

Bryony Clark, assistant director of the Tatham, said they believe the theft took place some time between late December and January 13.

“The theft of the angels is a tragedy,” she said. “We want to make an impassioned appeal to anyone who has seen them, or who knows where they might be, to return them to the gallery … the clock simply isn’t the same without them.”

Christopher Duigan, spokesperson for the Friends of Tatham Art Gallery, said: “It is such a rare piece, a real drawcard for the Tatham and one of the principal reasons people go to the gallery. It is a shame that people’s enjoyment has been spoilt. The gallery deserves world-class security measures because it is a world-class art gallery, and the collection is world-class and should be treated as such.”

Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said he had asked the deputy municipal manager, Boniwe Zulu, to oversee an investigation into the theft by the municipality’s internal security team, alongside a police probe.

“We need to know if there was a breach and if the existing security is inadequate,” he said.

Nkosi added that once the findings had been assessed, and subject to budget considerations, the council would look at improving the existing security at the gallery.

Scrap dealers have been alerted to watch for the angels. The investigating officer Warrant Officer P.A. Pillay is appealing to the public to come forward with information. He can be reached at 033 845 2756 or Crime Stop at 086 001 0111.

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