On Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents recovered a Chola period bronze from Ball State University’s Owsley Museum, marking yet another trail in the path of stolen Indian artifacts sold by dealer Subhash Kapoor.
In April 2005, the Indiana museum bought the Festival Bronze of Shiva and Parvati from Kapoor for $100,000, records show. Kapoor presented paperwork showing it had been in a private collection since 1969.
But images seized from Kapoor show he only acquired the bronze in 2004. At the time, it was covered in dirt and missing several pieces, as shown in the photo below.
Questions about the bronze were first raised by our friend Vijay Kumar, who wrote about the sculpture in the Times of India in July 2015.
The temple it was stolen from has yet to be identified. As Kumar noted, that the base of the statue has an inscription in Tamil that reads: “Thipampaapuram Sivigai Naayagar.”
“There are a few temples in Tamil Nadu that have names such as Thirupampuram, Thipamburam and so on…It was sold in 2005, the same time when Sripuranthan and Suthamalli were looted. With the help of the public, the authorities including the police should take all efforts to bring home this statue.”
After museum officials were informed about Kumar’s article, they contacted the Indian Consulate in Chicago and cooperated with federal agents during their investigation. “Homeland Security Investigations has presented convincing evidence that the work was stolen and its documentation falsified,” said museum director Robert La France.
As we’ve reported, Kapoor and his staff often used the name of his girlfriend and other acquaintances to create a false ownership for recently stolen antiquities. The Ball State case reveals a new name used by Kapoor: Leo Figiel, a collector of Indian art who died in 2013
2004. The Peabody Essex Museum, which recently returned a Kapoor object, acquired Figiel’s collection of antique Indian bronzes in 2006.
Figiel provided Kapoor with this false letter claiming he acquired the bronze from “a European collection in 1969.” It was not the only Kapoor object for which Figiel provided a false provenance, as we’ll show in the coming weeks.