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Posts Tagged ‘chasing aphrodite’

We have had some welcoming developments with regard to the Kapoor loot with respect to the main items in Australian Galleries - namely the Vriddhachalam Ardhanari which we discovered - check statement and the NGA Nataraja check statement- . Thanks to the ABC coverage we now have some very important and interesting documents related to the objects purchased from the same dealer held by the galleries.

We turn our attention to this Seated Jina Mount Abu region, Rajasthan, India

Seated Jina 1163 Sculpture, marble
55.8 h x 45.2 w x 23.1 d cm
Purchased 2003
Accession No: NGA 2003.478

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It is clear that the main Jina sculpture is not a perfect match for the Arch.

We now know thanks to the ” Due diligence report” which have now accessed, that it was indeed bought as two different pieces for USD 125,000 in December 2003.

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The provenance provided:
” bought in Delhi by Sudanese diplomat Abdulla Mehgoub, between 1968 and 1971
with subhash Kapoor of Art of the Past, New York, from 2002 or before”

This was supported by

” Signed letter of provenance from Raj Mehgoub stating that the jina sculpture and arch were purchased in India between 1968 and 1971 by her husband Abdulla Mehgoub, dated 25th Match 2003.
- Expert opinion on the sculpture’s quality and authenticity written by Dr Vidya Dehejia
- Copy of a published article about the sculpture in Arts of Asia, vol 33, no. 6. 2003″

The Provenance is indeed very thin and flies out of the window - based on current information as explained in Chasing Aphrodite

Further the said ” Article” seems to be an Art of Past Advertisement .

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Further the same report continues :

“New provenance information found

A comparable jina was found in the sales catalogue for Christie’s sale number 9481 (18 October 2002), South Kensington, London. Close examination suggests that the NGA Jina is the same object sold at the Christie’s sale. The Christie’s catalogue description corresponds to the NGA Jina in terms of size and Materials and its image matches the NGA sculpture exactly.
…..

The details surrounding this, such as the consignor and purchaser, are ye to be confirmed. This information suggests the the provenance letter supplies by Art of the Past was fraudulent, but supports the possibility that the sculpture was legitimately acquired.(sic) It is also possible that the sculpture was purchased at the Christie’s sale by Raj Mehgoub, but this seems unlikely given other information about kapoor.”

Now it gets interesting. This is the Jina sold via Christie and is available through a simple ” google ” check. So you do not need to necessarily subscribe or buy any catalog to view this.

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What is more interesting is that the JIna was listed at a base price of $ 1543 - $2315 and sold well above it but even then at a modest $ 6,889.

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This was on 12th October 2002 and in our checks there is no comparable Jain marble sold or auctioned during that time. So we are puzzled how even with the addition of the Arch the price of the Jina appreciated from $6889 to $125000 and why the ” Due Diligence report” does not reveal this important little detail? Further being an accountant since the two are distinct pieces and are recorded as separate acquisitions wouldn’t the accounting show the individual amounts instead of lumped under one? If the price NGA paid was fair then was the Christies listing low due to lack of proper provenance? So did Kapoor’s fabricated fake provenance add the $$$$$$$$ ?

Further, from the tone of the report it is clear that despite mounting evidence the NGA plans to hold on to the artifact and hence we are requesting support from volunteers in Rajasthan to help share and forward this photograph and push local vernacular press to publish this photo and seek any information of the possible loot.

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The arch is also important as a simple check on main Jain sites in the Jaisalmer and Satrunjaya temples reveal very very similar styled marble arches and many have been recently repaired / replaced. Why were they repaired, do we have any records of loot / robbery etc.

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Parsvanatha_Lodhruva
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Unless we can find proof we have to continue to appeal to the Australian Government in good faith and mounting circumstantial evidence otherwise.

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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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