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Archives by Month: February, 2014

The Art world is all excited about the outcome of the trail. But there are some interesting questions that keep coming up. We look at one such ” uncomfortable question” today.

We have seen earlier the details of Sripuranthan Nataraja and Sivagami.

It is pertinent here to point out that the actual theft happened at the Sripuranthan temple - the bronzes from Suthamalli temple were brought to Sripuranthan for safe keeping !!

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nataraja and sivakamasundari

Thanks to the works of Chasing Aphrodite we now know that the robbers took pictures of the Nataraja immediately after the theft when it was in a ” safe” house in Tamil Nadu before it was shipped out.

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We also have updated photos of the Nataraja currently on display at the NGA

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Even to a lay man the question will come up - how did the Nataraja change color. The greenish color is due to oxidation - and in bronzes it is called Patina. It is something that supposedly gives bronzes the antique look and is said to be a aesthetically pleasing and hence preferable condition. The Patina also prevents further corrosion of the bronze if properly formed aka done. Now naturally formed Patina takes years to happen and usually found in bronzes which have been buried underground and will never be seen in Temple bronzes which have been subjected to continuous worship with daily ablutions. Now, some ” experts” may argue that these temples were in ruined condition and might not have taken care of their bronzes.

This is where another crucial piece of evidence turns up. His consort.

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These photos are from Art of Past 2008 Catalog - the same year the NGA acquired the Nataraja. So its clear that the Nataraja would have been the same bronze color without patina.

So how did the Nataraja change color - attain Patina - yes, Patina can be artificially added thanks to today’s technology. There are chemical and physical means to impart which color you want and you practically order it when you want to commission a new bronze - green, black or Gold !!

The next question is - is there a difference in the chemical composition of a natural patina compared to one that is artificially applied. The answer is Yes and under a microscope its easy to spot the difference. In this case being a multi million dollar purchase must have been one of the first tests done by the gallery atleast to ensure they are buying a 1000 year old artifact and not a recently cast bronze.

Now the quality of this execution is important as a amateur working on such a ” priceless” piece might cause irreparable damage - in the past ( by that we mean in the case of the Pathur and the Sivapuram Nataraja ) the bronzes are sent to a country where there are expert conservators to do this job - UK !!

Now to read more into this, take a look at the case papers. Subhash Chandra Kapoor vs Inspector Of Police on 3 April, 2012


The said idols were presented before the Sea Customs Authority, Chennai so as to export it to xxxxxxxx Gallery and was cleared by customs on 6.3.2008 and were exported by ship to Hong Kong. They were further redirected to one xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Company at U.K. by direction from the petitioner. “

The same company is named in this newspaper report

Maybe the Nataraja changed color in UK??

The other question is why was the Patina applied only for the Nataraja and not to his consort? Was it customized?

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If ever there is a term for heights of negligence - this would be it !! No further proof is required for the utter disregard for our great Nation’s cultural treasures by the so called Custodians. We had broken the news of the Sripuranthan stolen Ganesha currently in the Toledo Museum previously.

Earlier today we also brought out the other dubious exhibit - Pala dynasty Varaha

But now we have a statement from the Museum


Subhash Kapoor Acquisitions Under Review

Subhash Kapoor, a second generation antiquities dealer and owner of Art of the Past Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City, was arrested in Germany on Oct. 30, 2011 and extradited to India on July 14, 2012 to face charges of illegal exportation, criminal conspiracy and forgery. Art of the Past was in business for 35 years, selling Asian antiquities to a large roster of Museum clients, including the Toledo Museum of Art.

The Toledo Museum of Art, like many museums across the country, acquired objects from Mr. Kapoor in the period from 2001-2010. The most significant of the eight acquired by the Toledo Museum of Art from Mr. Kapoor is a Ganesha figure. After the 2006 Ganesha purchase, Mr. Kapoor gifted 56 small terracotta idols to the Museum. The purchased items have been on public display. The gifted items have never been on public display.

On July 18, 2013 the Museum received a copy of an Indian police report that includes photographs of 18 metal idols stolen from Sripuranthan Village in Tamil Nadu. One of the images of a Ganesha figure closely resembles the Ganesha purchased by the Museum in 2006 from Art of the Past. At the time of purchase consideration, the Museum received a provenance affidavit and the curator personally spoke to the listed previous owner. The object was also run through the Art Loss Registry with no issues detected.

On July 24, 2013 TMA Director Brian Kennedy sent a letter to the Consulate General of India in New York, Mr. Sugandh Rajaram, requesting his assistance in researching the Ganesha’s provenance with Indian officials. To date, the Museum has received no response. On February 17, 2014 a letter was sent to Dr. S. Jaishanka, Ambassador of India to the United States, soliciting his assistance. The Museum has not been contacted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement or any other U.S. or foreign government agency in regards to this object and others the Museum purchased from Art of the Past or gifted by Mr. Kapoor.”

The statement also gives the copies of the letters sent by the Museum to the Consulate General of India New York on July 24 !!! which they did not receive any RESPONSE

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They followed up with a letter to the Ambassador of India, Washington DC on Feb 14th

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It is beyond doubt that we are talking of the same bronze

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The Photos in original resolution ( captured by the IFP Pondicherry team in 1994) have been with the Indian Police since 2009 !! How long does it take for the wheels of our official Machinery to move? Or have they decided to abandon the Ganesha as they did with the Sivapuram Somaskanda.

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