LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles police are continuing their search Saturday for clues about the theft of a nearly 250-pound Buddha statue, worth approximately $1.5 million, that was stolen from a gallery near West Hollywood.
Officers responded shortly before 10:30 a.m. Monday to the Barakat Gallery in the 900 block of North La Cienega Boulevard, between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard, regarding a burglary, authorities said.
The statue from Japan's Edo Period of 1603-1867 was stolen around 3:45 a.m. Monday, according to surveillance footage broadcast on local newscasts.
"I prize it so much," gallery owner Fayez Barakat told KTLA. "I had it in the backyard of my home, and when I moved into this gallery, I put it in the backyard of the gallery for everybody to admire and enjoy."
The suspect broke into the entrance through a driveway gate and used a dolly to move the statue onto a truck within 25 minutes, the station reported.
"This gentleman came and, I think, strapped a rope or a chain around that piece and pulled it to his rental van and put it in the back," Barakat told KTLA.
Loss of the stature has left Barakat "heartbroken," he said.
Paul Henderson, director of Barakat's Los Angeles location, told theartnewspaper.com that museum officials were "shocked" that a lone thief managed to steal the 4-foot-tall statue despite its weight and drive off with it in a Budget rental truck. They assume the robbery was premeditated.
"We're all very puzzled," Henderson told the website. "Obviously this is a high-valued piece, it's important, and aesthetically it's a very interesting and unique item. It's clearly a temple sculpture from that period, and the size and the execution make it a very rare item, so it's not something you'd find on the market, which means it's not something that could be resold easily.
"We're still trying to figure out what the motive was and what the thief thinks they're going to do with this piece."
An artist named Tadazou Iinuma is credited with creating the sculpture, the international art website reported.
It bears an inscription, which translated reads "Produced by Tadazou Iinuma, first year of Shouho, Kanoe. Prayed for and requested by Ryozen, master of Shingon religious party, Dainichi-Nyorai, Yudo-no-San Temple, of the highest social class."
The inscription implies the sculpture was commissioned by a religious official named Ryozen and was likely once installed at the Yudo-no-San Temple, a holy site on Japan's Mount Yudono, theartnewspaper.com reported.
"I hope that the person who stole it is not stealing it for the weight of bronze because it's a historical item," Barakat said. "Whoever stole it, maybe that person understood the value. Probably, they commissioned somebody, a thief of some kind, to just go ahead and steal it."
In addition to the Los Angeles location, Barakat also has galleries in London and Seoul.
Anyone with information about the stolen sculpture was urged to contact the Los Angeles Police Department at 1-877-275-5273.
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