India requests that Oxford exhibition hall return ‘stolen’ bronze statue


The Indian government has asked the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford to restore a fifteenth century bronze icon that was obviously taken from a sanctuary during the 1960s.

The Indian high commission in London said a conventional solicitation for compensation of the statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar was made last Friday.

The move comes after the Ashmolean educated the high commission last December of new research that scrutinized the provenance of the figure, which was purchased by the historical center from Sotheby’s bartering house in London in 1967.

An autonomous researcher found a 1957 photo in the French Institute of Pondichéry, that seemed to portray a similar symbol in the sanctuary of Sri Soundarrajaperumal, in a town close Kumbakonam in the south Indian province of Tamil Nadu. That model was taken in the mid 1960s.

The model, which is just about one meter tall, portrays Tirumankai Alvar, one of the Tamil artist holy people of south India, holding a sword and shield. The loved holy person, who lived in the eighth or ninth century, was a chieftain, a military administrator, and a criminal before changing over to the Vaishnava convention of Hinduism.

Rahul Nangare, the primary secretary of the Indian high commission in London, said it had gotten a report from police in Tamil Nadu that “unambiguously shows that the original idol has been stolen and replaced with a fake one, and that the stolen idol is the same one that is presently with the Ashmolean.”

“Therefore, we have conveyed our formal request to them for restitution of the idol to India. The idol wing is now further investigating the matter about the original theft and subsequent smuggling out of the idol.”

Nagare said thanks to the Ashmolean for finding a way to caution the high commission and communicated trust that “other museums would follow the example in dealing with suspected stolen pieces of our cultural heritage”.

They said the Ashmolean was doing encourage due ingenuity on the provenance of the figure, with a gallery official planned to visit India without further ado.

A representative for the Ashmolean said there had been no case against the model. “The museum acquired the statue in good faith. According to the Sotheby’s catalogue the bronze was sold from the collection of Dr JR Belmont (1886-1981),” they said.

“We currently have no indication of how the bronze entered his collection and we are continuing to investigate with the support of the Indian high commission.”

Other Indian bronzes once in the Belmont assortment have gotten more than £490,000 at sell off.

The Ashmolean said that the researcher’s exploration had additionally brought up issues over the provenance of a few different bronzes in assortments in Europe and the US. “Further research will be needed to determine whether they were taken out of [India] legally or otherwise,” the representative included.

Deaccessioning the model would require the endorsement of the craftsmanship and archaic exploration historical center’s board and the bad habit chancellor of Oxford University.

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