The Metropolitan Museum of Art Is Sending a Sculpture of Lord Shiva Back to Nepal

Researchers suspect that the object was probably stolen from a Nepalese temple 50 years ago.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4th, 2020. ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it will be returning a 10th century Nepalese sculpture to its country of origin after researchers discovered inconsistencies in the object’s record of ownership. The sculpture, which was once kept in a temple nearby Nepal’s Durbar Square, is thought to have been stolen from this location 50 years ago before eventually making its way into the Met’s collection. Within the past few years, the Met has made efforts to give back several items from its collection which were found to have been stolen, including an ancient Egyptian coffin from the late Ptolemaic Period and 2,300-year-old Greek vase.

The Nepalese sculpture the Met is returning shows the Hindu god Lord Shiva brandishing a flask of ambrosia. “The museum is committed to the responsible acquisition of archaeological art, and applies rigorous provenance standards both to new acquisitions and the study of works long in its collection,” the Met said in a statement. “In returning this sculpture to Nepal, the museum is acting to strengthen the good relationship it has long maintained with scholarly institutions and colleagues in Nepal.”

“The warm cooperation we have received from the museum has deeply contributed to Nepal’s national efforts to recover and reinstate its lost artifacts,” Nepalese Acting Consul General Bishnu Prasad Gautam added in a statement of his own. The Met’s willingness to correct the past wrongs associated with retaining stolen artifacts is in line with a national push to improve the legitimacy of the American antiquities trade. Specifically, the US Department of the Treasury is working on drafting new regulations that could demystify the trade and crack down on money laundering.

“A number of cases have arisen in which stolen antiquities have been recovered in the US,” lawyer Michael McCullough told The Art Newspaper last week. “There are a lot of questionable characters who operate out of places where there is little regulation.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Is Sending a Sculpture of Lord Shiva Back to Nepal