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