Mystery would-be thieves in Brussels have attempted to steal a bust of the creator of the world-famous Tintin comics.
Speaking to Brussels Signal, officials from the local town hall in the neighbourhood of Etterbeek said that the glass covering the bust of the late artist Hergé, who was born in the area, had been badly damaged in an apparent attempt by unknown miscreants to make off with the sculpture.
Fearing its imminent theft, the statue has had to be removed from its stand and placed in safe storage.
Hergé is controversial for a number of reasons, among them his Conservative and Catholic views, his alleged collaboration with the Germans during the Second World War and his depiction of Africans in Tintin.
The Etterbeek townhall officials were deeply sceptical of that being a reason for the attempt to steal the bust.
According to an Etterbeek spokesman, there have been never been any instances of political vandalism, messages or graffiti being scrawled on the statue. He also maintained that the local authorities have never received any complaint about “political incorrectness” regarding the artwork.
“On the contrary,” he said, adding that when the bust was installed in 2019 many Etterbeek locals were jubilant as crowds gathered celebrate the statue’s unveiling.
“He is a national icon,” the spokesman added, “and we are very proud of him in our little part of Brussels.”
Rather than for political reasons, Etterbeek authorities are convinced that the motivation for the attack was more financial.
The statue was made by late renowned Belgian sculptor Nat Neujean, whose works can fetch a high price.
Neujan produced statues and busts of many famous figures in Brussels and Belgian life, including one of European Union founder Robert Schuman. Hergé and Neujean had apparently been good friends in their time.
On the art market many of Neujean’s smaller pieces are selling for a few thousand euros, although his sculptures of Tintin himself can fetch as much as €200,000.
The Etterbeek authorities say that the statue will be returned to its rightful position in a few weeks with a stronger protective cover.
They maintained that it was important for Hergé’s bust to stay in their neighbourhood, regardless of the risk of theft.
“We’d like keep a souvenir of his youth in here in Etterbeek,” the spokesman said.
Hergé was born as Georges Remi on May 22, 1907. As a youngster, he developed a passion for drawing, leading him to join the Boy Scouts where he honed his artistic skills by creating illustrations for the Scouts’ magazine.
In 1929, he introduced the world to his iconic character Tintin, a fearless young journalist embarking on exciting adventures.
Hergé’s exceptional storytelling and artistic style revolutionised the comics genre, earning him global acclaim.