The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced on Wednesday that it would be returning a 10th-century Nepalese sculpture to its home country after researchers discovered inconsistencies in the object’s ownership record. The sculpture, which was once kept in a temple near Durbar Square in Nepal, was said to have been stolen there 50 years ago before finally making its way into the Met’s collection. In recent years, the Met has worked to return several items from its collection that turned out to be stolen, including an ancient Egyptian coffin from the late Ptolemaic period and a 2,300-year-old Greek vase.
The Nepalese sculpture The Met Is Back shows the Hindu god Lord Shiva wielding a vial of ambrosia. “The museum is committed to responsible acquisition of archaeological art and applies rigorous provenance standards both to new acquisitions and to the study of long-standing works in its collection,” the Met said in a statement. “By returning this sculpture to Nepal, the museum is acting to strengthen the good relations it has long enjoyed with academic 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 restore its lost artifacts,” Nepal Acting Consul General Bishnu Prasad Gautam added in a statement. The Met’s drive to right past wrongs associated with the conservation of stolen artifacts is part of a national campaign to improve the legitimacy of the American antiques trade. Specifically, the US Department of the Treasury is working on drafting new regulations that could demystify commerce and crack down on money laundering.
“There have been a number of cases in which stolen antiques have been recovered in the United States,” said attorney Michael McCullough. The arts journal Last week. “There are a lot of questionable characters operating in places where there is little regulation.”