Stolen sculpture found; dropped off at gallery

- A stolen piece of artwork from the Dale Chihuly collection was found Tuesday morning, dropped off in an unassuming box.

This small piece -- about 8 inches tall -- was stolen from the Chihuly Collection Gallery on Beach Drive.  The collection is owned by the Morean Arts Center, about a half mile away in the 700 block of Central Avenue.

It turned up in a box outside the Morean's front door.  The good news, and somewhat unexpectedly, 'Cobalt and Lavender Piccolo Venetian with Gilded Handles' appears to be undamaged.

It is also back at the Beach Drive gallery now so that St. Pete police won't be responsible for an irreplaceable piece of art worth as much as $25,000.

The Morean employee who found the box said she'd actually set it aside for a few minutes while she opened up this gallery.

"Then I open the box and like, 'Oh my gosh. No way, no way!' It's pretty crazy, you know," Jeanette St. Amour recalled.  "It looked like a beat up box and it was like, a Chihuly piece in it?  I recognized it because, obviously, I work here; I've seen it enough times."

It is still thought that this piece was stolen sometime late Sunday afternoon, with the loss not discovered until yesterday morning.

The collection's director says it will be carefully examined to ensure it is undamaged.

In the meantime, the police investigation continues.  As many as a dozen detectives are on the case, in large part going through security camera video from around the Beach Drive crime scene and now from around Central.

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