Thousand-year-old Indian statues have been seized from New York’s Christie’s Auction House. Two antique sandstone statues believed to have been stolen from India were seized by investigators from the auction house days before their scheduled auction next week. They are valued at $594542.11 (US$4,50,000).
The artifacts were recovered from the premier auction house on Friday following an international investigation collaborated in by the Indian Government and Interpol. AP has reported that the artifacts were to be part of an auction next week called “The Lahiri Collection: Indian and Himalayan Art, Ancient and Modern.”
US immigration special agents, Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized the Indian statues from the auction house. The auction house Christie’s, on the other hand, issued a statement, which partly read, “Christie’s devotes considerable resources to investigating the provenance of all objects we offer for sale”.
The auction house further stated, “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.”
One of the artifacts is a buff sandstone stele of Rishabhanata, said to be from Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, reported US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It belongs to 10 century AD and depicts the first Jain Tirthankara (a teacher who preaches drama) in vajra asana (crossed leg position). The Tirthankar is flanked by a pair of standing attendants. The artifact is valued at $1,97,971.46 (US$1,50,000).
The second artifact is an 8th century AD buff sandstone panel which depicts Revanta and his entourage from India. Revanta is an equestrian deity and a figure of great importance for Hindus. It is valued at $396,222.68 (US$300,000).
The ongoing investigation revealed that the Sandstone Stele of Rishabhanata was apparently sold by Oliver Forge to London–based Brandon Lynch Ltd between 2006 and 2007. On the other hand, authorities found out from photos provided by the dealer, that the Panel of Revanta seem to have included an “orphan fragment” which is perfectly broken off. It is believed that the smugglers plan to sell the broken off piece after the main panel has been sold.
Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das, Consul General of India, appreciated HSI for their exceptional work and congratulated all the special agents on their successful investigation.