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Stolen Indian antiques seized in U.S.

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The statue of Rishbhanata appears to have been sold to London-based Brandon Lynch Ltd between 2006 – 2007.

Two stolen Indian statues that are more than 1,000 years old dating back to as early as the 8th Century and valued at over $4,50,000 (Rs.3 crore) were seized in the U.S. from premier auction house Christie’s just days before an auction next week.

The artefacts made from sandstone were recovered from the auction house following an international investigation with assistance from the Indian government and the Interpol.

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) along with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized the statues here on Friday. The statues are believed to be dating back to the 8th Century A.D. and the 10th Century A.D.

The seizure comes days before the March 15 ‘Asia Week New York’ festivities, as part of which Christie’s is organising the auction titled ‘The Lahiri Collection: Indian and Himalayan Art, Ancient and Modern’.

The artefacts are a buff sandstone statue of Rishabhanata, believed to be from Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh belonging to the 10th Century A.D. It depicts the first Jain Tirthankara and is valued at approximately $1,50,000 (Rs.1 crore). The second artefact is a buff sandstone panel depicting Revanta, a rare representation of an equestrian deity. It dates back to the 8th Century A.D. and is valued at approximately $300,000.

The statue of Rishbhanata appears to have been sold to London-based Brandon Lynch Ltd between 2006 – 2007.

The panel of Revanta, according to images provided by the source dealer, appears to have contained an “orphan fragment” — a piece perfectly broken off to be sold by the smugglers after the sale of the main part of the sculpture.

“This seizure at the beginning of an international event as well recognised as Asia Week New York sends two important messages: first and foremost, it demonstrates that we are committed to protecting cultural heritage around the world and second, it demonstrates that we are monitoring the market to protect prospective buyers as well,” said Angel M Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI New York.

HSI special agents were able to determine that both artefacts had come from a smuggler and supplier in India.

Christie’s said that it would never knowingly offer a stolen work of art and it was cooperating with authorities.

“Christie’s devotes considerable resources to investigating the provenance of all objects we offer for sale. This is one of the difficulties the art market faces in vetting antiquities, which is why Christie’s very much values building strong relationships with and between countries of origin, law enforcement, archaeologists, and the collecting community,” the auction house said in a statement.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2017 6:25:15 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/stolen-indian-antiques-seized-in-us/article8346640.ece