Oak Hill Cemetery's missing angel, "Amor Caritas," the Augustus Saint-Gaudens statue of his mistress, has been returned, surrounded by a cloud of silence, but apparently unharmed.
The angel was turned in to Frederick, Md., police about midnight Thursday by a Frederick lawyer representing someone who had learned about the theft from a story in that day's Washington Post, said Police Chief Richard Ashton. An accompanying photograph by David Finn, taken from "Uncommon Clay," a new biography of Saint-Gaudens, helped identify the bronze.
Ashton said his office agreed to accept and return the angel and ask no questions. "We thought it the prudent way to go."
Ashton said he could give no details. "Probably someone is out some money," he said, perhaps implying that the person who gave it back had bought the statue from whoever stole it. "It's better to lose the money than go to jail."
Ella Pozell, the cemetery's office manager, said she and her husband Joseph, Oak Hill superintendent, and D.C. Detective Howard Blum brought the angel back to the cemetery in Georgetown yesterday morning. For the time being, the high-relief artwork is being kept in storage, pending a decision as to its future.
The 40-by-18-inch angel, dating from the early 20th century, was stolen from the grave of former U.S. ambassador to Spain Joseph E. Willard on Thanksgiving weekend. Oak Hill trustees did not announce the loss until Thursday in the hope that the sculpture would be recovered.
Ella Pozell said security had been greatly increased in the small graveyard since the theft.
Burke Wilkinson, author of "Uncommon Clay," has valued "Amor Caritas" at more than $100,000. Davida Clark, Saint-Gaudens' longtime mistress and model, posed for the original 1898 work. The Oak Hill statue is a smaller version of the original casting.