Thieves using a flatbed truck and a crane snatched a two-ton Henry Moore bronze of a reclining figure from the grounds of the late sculptor's foundation north of London, police said Saturday.
The sculpture, valued at more than $5.2 million, was stolen Thursday night from the artist's Hertfordshire county estate, authorities said in a statement.
"This is a very valuable statue and we are working closely with the Henry Moore Foundation to ensure its safe return," said Detective Sgt. Graeme Smith of the Area Crime Unit. "The foundation is offering a substantial reward for information leading to its recovery."
Authorities said they were investigating all potential motives for the crime, including the possibility that the thieves planned to melt the sculpture and sell it for scrap.
"It is a nationally renowned sculpture and very, very difficult to get rid of," said Chief Inspector Richard Harbon. "So, obviously, we are looking at all the possibilities, as I said, right from scrap metal right up to fine arts theft."
Police said three thieves brought in a crane to lift the sculpture onto the flatbed truck, then drove away at 10:16 p.m. Thursday. The theft was filmed by security video.
Moore created some of modern art's most recognizable sculptures, including large, abstract works cast in bronze or carved from stone, using fractured human forms as metaphors for landscapes.
The prolific British artist, who died in 1986 at age 88, established and endowed a foundation in 1977 that operates from Perry Green, his 70-acre country estate and studios 30 miles north of London.
The foundation is reassessing security after the theft, said Gareth Spence, its spokesman. The estate, which has gates and alarms, had never before had such an incident.
He said the statue - 11 3/4 feet long, 6 1/2 feet high and 6 1/2 feet wide - was famous throughout the world.
"I think it would be very hard for anyone to sell," Spence told Britain's Press Association. "The recipient - where would they display it? It is meant to be displayed outside."
On the Net:
Henry Moore Foundation: http://www.henry-moore-fdn.co.uk