US to return stolen Chola era Shiva-Parvati idol to India

Washington, Nov 20 (IANS) A Chola-era bronze sculpture of Shiva and Parvati stolen from Tamil Nadu and smuggled into the US at the behest of New York’s infamous Indian art dealer Subhash Kapoor is set for eventual return to India.

Known as a Festival Bronze of Shiva and Parvati, the religious relic has been transferred the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) by the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University.

As part of Operation Hidden Idols, special agents with HSI’s cultural property unit were able to determine that this idol had been looted from a temple in southern India and brought to the US illegally, according to a media release.

Operation Hidden Idol focuses on the activities of Kapoor, who is currently in custody in India awaiting trial for allegedly looting tens of millions of dollars’ worth of rare antiquities from several nations.

The Festival Bronze of Shiva and Parvati will be shipped to New York where it will serve as potential evidence in Operation Hidden Idols.

Ultimately the idol is expected to be forfeited and repatriated to India along with at least six other sacred Chola bronzes recovered by HSI.

The stolen 15 x 12.25 x 6 inches bronze sculpture of Shiva and Parvati, from the Chola Period (860 -1279 CE) was delivered to Kapoor’s former Madison Avenue gallery, Art of the Past around 2004, HIS said.

Kapoor displayed the Shiva and Parvati sculpture for sale and misrepresented the idol’s true origin.

In 2005, representatives from Ball State University became unwitting victims as Kapoor provided the museum with a false provenance for their artefact.

Kapoor had a fraudulent provenance attributed to Leo Figiel that placed the artefact back to a US collection in1969.

To date, HSI special agents, in conjunction with the Manhattan prosecutor’s office, have netted in excess of 2,500 artefacts worth more than $100 million. These artefacts stem from countries around the world.

“The David Owsley Museum of Art, as with the Toledo Museum of Art and several other major collecting institutions, cooperated fully with the US and Indian governments in the investigation of works sold by the dealer Subhash Kapoor,” said Robert La France, director of the David Owsley Museum of Art.

“The Festival Bronze of Shiva and Parvati was the only work of art in this museum’s collection purchased from Kapoor. Homeland Security Investigations has presented convincing evidence that the work was stolen and its documentation falsified.”

Since 2007, more than 7,200 artefacts have been returned to 30 countries, including paintings from France, Germany, Poland and Austria; 15th to 18th century manuscripts from Italy and Peru; as well as cultural artefacts from China, Cambodia and Iraq.

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