An ancient sculpture of a Hindu goddess that was stolen from a temple in the Banda district of Uttar Pradesh and sold in London in the 1980s will now be returned to India on the Guardian reports.
The Indian High Commission in London is about to officially accept the Return of Antiquity, which depicts a seated female deity with a goat’s head. The ancient stone icon, which dates back to the 8th or 9th century, was part of a group of Hindu yogini figures that were stolen between 1979 and 1982 from the grounds of a temple near the village of Lokhari.
The recovery was facilitated by Christopher Marinello, a London-based lawyer and art restitution expert. Marinello was helped by Vijay Kumar, a specialist in the recovery of Indian cultural objects to repatriate the piece. Both have worked with the Indian’s Archaeological Survey and the London Tax Intelligence Directorate and Metropolitan Police.
When the sculpture went on sale in London in 1988, it was valued at around Â£ 15,000 ($ 19,000). The lot was included in the auction house’s catalog, but was subsequently withdrawn from sale before being offered. Despite a five-year investigation into trafficking in antiques looted by the auction house launched by British authorities the same year, the identity of the coin’s sender has never been revealed. The sculpture was mentioned in British journalist Peter Watson’s book in 1997 Sotheby’s: the story of the interior, who examined the auction house’s alleged wrongdoing in dealing in works of art looted from religious sites.
Decades after surfacing in the auction catalog where it was advertised for sale, Marinello found the statue last month in the garden of an English house, where it was covered in moss. The state had suffered visible wear and tear due to external conditions. The owner of the British house where the piece has long resided was unaware of the history of the religious object when she hired Marinello’s company, Art Recovery International, to help it sell works by his estate.
Marinello told the Guardian this affair sheds light on the “innumerable objects looted from English gardens and collections linked to colonial history”.
A Sotheby’s statement in the same report noted that the house’s compliance standards for selling antiques are higher today. Sotheby’s said it is “backed by a world-class compliance team, which works closely with external authorities to ensure that we operate at the highest level of business integrity.”