The Mystery of the Missing Scales

This is quite a story, so I’m sharing the news release from Metro Government.

LOUISVILLE (Dec 1, 2011) – There’s a mystery at Metro Hall and Mayor Greg Fischer is calling on citizens to help solve it.

Seen these scales anyone?

The scales that belong to Lady Justice — part of the Thomas Jefferson statue that sets in front of Metro Hall — are missing. City councilman and local historian Tom Owen recently noticed that the scales were gone and alerted the Mayor’s Office.

“Our fear is that someone has sold the scales for scrap,” Fischer said. “I’m asking local antique stores and scrap metal shops to check their inventory for the artwork. Perhaps an unknowing citizen has purchased the scales from a dealer or another person, not knowing their historic value to the city.”

Anyone with information about the scales should contact MetroCall 311.

The city recently inventoried all its public art and last year the Metro Council approved the creation of the Commission on Public Art. The commission, among other things, is developing a database and collection management system for public art, determining a conservation plan and setting policies and procedures for new artworks.

The city doesn’t know how long the scales have been missing, but an archive photo from 2008 shows them intact while a photo from last year shows them missing.

The cast bronze artwork is an allegorical statue of Thomas Jefferson and there is a replica at the University of Virginia.

The artwork is a full-length statue of Jefferson holding the Declaration of Independence and standing on a replica of the Liberty Bell. Four allegorical winged female figures surround the base of the bell — Liberty, Equality, Justice and Brotherhood of Man and Religious Freedom.

The statue was dedicated November 9, 1901 and was presented to the Board of Park Commissioners by Isaac and Bernard Bernheim in 1899.

The artist, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, was born in Richmond, Va. and was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute during the Civil War. He fought with the VMI Cadet Battalion on the Confederate side, for the sake of Virginia. He was VMI’s first Jewish cadet. He graduated after the war in 1866.

At 29 he won the prestigious art award, the Michel-Beer Prix de Rome – the first non-German to do so. The prize allowed him to study in Rome where he lived for the rest of his life. He was knighted by King Victor Emmanuel of Italy and won nearly every significant award in Italy for artists. He was also recognized by U.S. Presidents Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson.

Over his long career he completed some 200 works.  The New York Times dispatch from Rome upon his death in March 1921 stated: “The death of Moses Ezekiel, the distinguished and greatly beloved American sculptor, who lived in Rome for more than forty years, caused universal regret here.”