Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 10- Nagapattinam Buddha

In our continuing pursuit to bring to light the extent of the rot – today we move away from Hindu dieties and metal – to stone and Buddha – not any Buddha but a Buddha from Nagapattinam 11th Century. This was a dynamic period in the Chola rule when the mighty Emperor Sri Raja Raja ruled much of South India. His extensive donations to the Soodamani Vihara in Nagapattinam is studied to this day and to spot one such piece in the September 2010 Catalogue of now arrested Subash Kapoor’s Art of Past is the subject of our post today.


What is interesting is there is this particular article in the Hindu with the image dated Nov 11th 2012, which seem to bear a remarkable likeness to the catalog sculpture.

The foot note makes it even more interesting: ” The Buddhist statue marked for theft by alleged Kapoor associate, Sanjivi Asokan, but not stolen owing to police action.”

and the report goes ” One Buddhist idol was said to have been marked for theft by Kapoor’s alleged head of operations in Tamil Nadu, the now-imprisoned Sanjivi Asokan. However, that idol was ultimately not stolen, quite likely due to timely action by authorities. “

The image in the publication is not very clear but there is a very important clue in the Buddha’s hand – his right thumb is broken.

A careful study of the catalog reveals the same breakage in it as well.

Now obviously something is amiss. The Catalog listing also boasts that the said sculpture was exhibited in the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore ” On the Nalanda Trial “ from 1st Nov 2007 to 23rd March 2008. It was a prestigious exhibition which was seen even by the Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohan Singh.

The Press release of the ACM for the event has this said sculpture with a detailed foot note as well



“…viewed stunning Buddhist art, including this 11th Century stone sculpture from South India, weighing over 700 kg.”

Now, what timely action are we talking off. The photo in the Hindu seems to be of the Buddha in situ in a site in India ( large temple wall abutting it??) –

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 9- Toledo Ganesha

We had promised for some explosive revelations on this case. Here is the first of the next set. We go back to photos published by the Idol Wing.

The first of the green marked ones – the Ganesha.

Ever since this case has been in the open, we have been running through various Museum databases and acquisitions and cross checking with the images published by the Idol wing. This bronze currently in the Toledo Museum came up in our searches as it was acquired in 2006 ( for the acquisition number)

On further checking we notices that the Museum has had a lot of interaction with the accused Subash Kapoor and he is listed in their annual report 2007 ( refer the end notes). We could not find the gallery’s 2006 Annual report and hence are not aware if the provenance information is declared in that document.

However a simple comparison reveals that we are looking at the same Sripuranthan Ganesha

Lets take a closer look – there is a small blemish in the trunk ( wish we could receive better quality images of the same)


Thanks to a friendly associate who took the pains to drive up to the Museum and get us high resolution images we can check the bronze in toledo and match the same.

The Hands, base pedestal, the loin cloth ornamentation all match up.



Now, it is upto the authorities to seek the return of this looted deity.

Foot Note:

Annual report 2007 of the Toledo Museum ( extract):

Burmese, Buddhist Votive Plaque, 12th–13th century, terra cotta,
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.113
Burmese, Buddhist Votive Plaque, 12th–13th century, terra cotta,
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.114
Indian, Gupta Period, Seated Mother, 5th century, terra cotta, terra
cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.107
Indian, Gupta Period, Standing Monkey, 6th century, terra cotta,
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.108
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.109
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Kubera Rattle, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.110
Indian, Gupta Period, Durga Killing Buffalo Demon, 5th century,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.111
Indian, Mauryan, Bird with Wheels, 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.112
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Kubera Rattle, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.115
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Fertility Goddess Sitting with Star, 1st
century B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor,
2007.116
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Square Plaque with Horse, 1st century
B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.117
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Fertility Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.118
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Man Riding Animal, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.119
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Torso of a Woman, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.120
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Monkey Figure, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.121
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.122
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.123
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Plaque with Two Figures, 1st century
B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.124
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Plaque with Figures, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.125
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.126
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Rattle of Kubera, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.127
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Plaque of Yakshi, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.128
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.129
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.130
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Plaque of Standing Figure, 1st century
B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.131
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Plaque of a Horse, 1st century B.C.-1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.132
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Plaque of Two Figures, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.133
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.134
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.135
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Circular Plaque Fertility Goddess, 1st
century B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor,
2007.136
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Figure on Crocodile, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.137
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.138
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Fragment of Yakshi Head, 1st century
B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.139
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Standing Yakshi, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.140
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Fragment of Yakshi Plaque, 1st century
B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.141
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Fragment of Yakshi and Bird, 1st century
B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.142
Indian (Uttar Pradesh), Ram, 1st –2nd century A.D., terra cotta, Gift
of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.143
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Mithuna Plaque, 1st century B.C.–1st
century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.144
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Plaque of Water Buffalo and Tiger, 1st
century B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor,
2007.145
Indian (Chandraketugarh), Fertility Goddess Figure, 1st century
B.C.–1st century A.D., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.146
Indian (Uttar Pradesh), Gupta Period, Head, 5th century, terra cotta,
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.147
Indian (Uttar Pradesh), Gupta Period, Head, 6th century, terra cotta,
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.148
Indian (Uttar Pradesh), Gupta Period, Head, 7th century, terra cotta,
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.149
Indian (Uttar Pradesh), Gupta Period, Head, 8th century, terra cotta,
Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.150
Indian (Western India), Female Head, Gupta period, 5th century,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.158
Indian, Gupta Period, Head, 4th century, terra cotta, Gift of Subhash
Kapoor, 2007.159

seems he was also into Pakistani

Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Bull with Two Humps, 5000–
2000 B.C., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.151
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Cow, 5000–2000 B.C., terra
cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.152
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Cow on Base, 5000–2000 B.C.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.153
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Two Cows, 5000–2000 B.C.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.154
Pakistani, Cross Plaque, 5th–7th century, terra cotta, Gift of Subhash
Kapoor, 2007.155
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Bowl, 4th–3rd century B.C.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.156
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Female Doll, 5th–3rd century
B.C., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.160
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Female Doll, 6th–3rdcentury
B.C., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.161
Pakistani (Mohenjo-daro; Ancient India), Weight, 3000–1000 B.C.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.162
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Bull with Two Humps, 5000–
2000 B.C., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.151
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Cow, 5000–2000 B.C., terra
cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.152
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Cow on Base, 5000–2000 B.C.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.153
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Two Cows, 5000–2000 B.C.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.154
Pakistani, Cross Plaque, 5th–7th century, terra cotta, Gift of Subhash
Kapoor, 2007.155
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Bowl, 4th–3rd century B.C.,
terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.156
Pakistani (Mehrgarh; Ancient India), Female Doll, 5th–3rd century
B.C., terra cotta, Gift of Subhash Kapoor, 2007.160

Iranian

Iranian, Pitcher, 9th–10th century, terra cotta, Gift of Subhash
Kapoor, 2007.157

The Museum recognizes and thanks the
following organizations, businesses, and
individuals who made gifts during 2008
in support of art acquisitions, capital
projects, and special programs.
$100,000+ – Subhash Kapoor: gift of art

CUMULATIVE GIVING
The Toledo Museum of Art salutes the
following donors for their generosity and
continuing support during its second
century:
Key:
I. Founding Benefactors
II. $10 million and higher
III. $5 million to $9.999 million
IV. $1 million to $4.999 million
V. $500,000 to $999,999
VI. $250,000 to $499,999 – Mr. Subhash Kapoor
VII. $100,000 to $249,999

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 8- He is in Australia while She is in America

It has been quite sometime since the world was made aware of the theft of the bronzes and the involvement of accused Subash Kapoor and the gallery Art of the Past. The proverbial tip of the iceberg was this Nataraja and thanks mainly to efforts of blessed souls across the world.. While there has been nothing new that has come up on this case from the authorities and same rhetoric from the gallery.…we now have further evidence to show that his consort is languishing in America.

Here is the file photograph of them together as a couple in their abode in Sripuranthan.


We had earlier shown the proof on the Nataraja and now thanks to a generous reader we have accessed to the Art of the Past galleries 2008 catalogue which reveals shockingly indepth details of the bronze including a flowery writeup. You cannot but notice that the residual marks on her face and cheeks explicitly imply that she was a bronze under continuous worship !!

A simple comparison reveals that both are the same

This is the same bronze that was displayed when America customs displayed their catch in the news conference post the raids on the Art of Past gallery warehouse.

This should be more than adequate proof to seek the return of this bronze back to India ! and hopefully reunite the divine couple.

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 7- can we afford to be Lax

Can we afford to be Lax in our followup of bringing back our cultural treasures ? It is a question which we posed to our readers some months back in this post….

Sadly the trend seems to be continue in current ” progress” on the Kapoor story. We find a detailed account with varying dates , numbers given in the Idol wing’s website with the foot note reading as under:

Present Stage of the Case :

There were two temple burglaries in Sripuranthan Village and Suthamally Village during 2006 and 2008 which 28 antique idols of Hindu Deities of immeasurable value were stolen and subsequently smuggled out of India and illegally exported to USA”

Compare the same to the case registered

“It was during interrogation of those persons, it transpired that 18 Antique Metallic idols were stolen from Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Suthamalli village by the three of them”…..” theft of eight idols in an another Sivan Temple at Sri Puranthan Village in Ariyalur District”

“…….18 Antique metallic idols from Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Suthamalli village. A Non Bailable Warrant was issued to the petitioner and for recovery of stolen idols. Blue notices were sent for extradition of the petitioner to CBI, Interpol, New Delhi. It was further found that the same gang was also involved in the theft of eight Antique metallic idols stolen from Sri Pragdeeswarar Temple at Sri Purandan village in Ariyalur District. They were also exported to the U.S.”

So the case files reference to 18+8 = 26 bronzes.

Another reference mentions only 18

“On 13.04.2008, in a famous temple viz., M/s.Arulmigu Sundareswarar and Varadharaja Perumal Thirukovil, Suthamalli Village, Udayarpalayam Taluk, Ariyalur District, as many as 18 idols, made of panchalohas were stolen away.”

While the most glaring anomaly is in the number of bronzes stolen there seems no consenus on the actual year they were stolen and illegally exported out of India. To make matters worse the Idol wing’s most important tool – ie the release of the photographs in such poor quality and most irresponsible manner in which they affixed erroneous names to the exhibits : Real howlers like Deepalakshmi ( lady with the lamp!!) for an Amman bronze, Sampanthar for Manikkavasagar and Krishnan for Sambandar. The second set of photos have equally ridiculous labeling : Deepalakshmi for Astradevar, Murugan for Chandikeshwara.

The Pdf published in the same site thankfully makes a few corrections but is still wrong in many. However it is important to note that the Chandikeshwara shown in the website ( titled Murugan) is absent in the pdf and now has a proper subramanya. So let us count.

8 listed under Suthamalli and 8 listed ( count Nataraja + uma as 2) under Sripuranthan. The photo of Chandikeshwara seems to match the set from Suthamalli. So overall we have images only for 17 bronzes.

We have already published information on the pdf file and the two images marked in Green have been identified with bronzes currently exhibited in two major museums. This information has already been passed on to the authorities and hopefully they will act on them. It is important to mention that they seem to have acquired them as early as in 2006.

It is pertinent to mention that The Australian has just published a list of 21 items acquired from Subash Kapoor that need to checked. The most interesting is this masterpiece Sambandar.



We do not have a visual match for it from any of the published bronzes from the Idol wing ( as obviously they wrongly labelled dancing Sambandar as narthana Krishnar and then Manikkavasagar as Sampanthar !!).

We understand the the IFP has in its archives atleast some (more) of the photos from both the temples and it is sad to see that a complete itinerary of the assets have not been tallied and presented to the courts yet.

It is pertinent that the Idol wing and other authorities show more interest in solving this case in entirety and not just do lip service Galleries and Museums who have bought these stolen items have to shown proof to make them return these artifacts.

for example, below are some bronzes which are yet to be identified by us but published in the catalogues of Art of the Past.

Dancing Krishna / Navaneetha Krishna – Catalogue September 2008


The styling of this Krishna is contemporary the Sambanthar from Australia.

Skanda – Chola – Catalogue September 2008



This is a very important chola subramanya ( distinct from the previous one we posted)

Ganesha – Chola – Catalogue September 2009

It is important to notice that the base has been removed from this bronze. We have already seen that the bronzes from Suthamalli have inscribed bases reading ” Suthavalli” being found in both the Natarja and Uma pedestals. Were all the bronzes similarly inscribed and is it the reason why they had their bases removed? If so is this bronze part of the stolen yet unlisted one from Suthamalli ? Further we have information that the IFP has one bronze listed as Ganapthi under their roll number 02235. Will the authorities make the effort to check this?

Uma – Chola Catalogue September 2011


Classical Chola beauty. We hope this is part of the sculptures covered in the latest twist from America side.

Nataraja – Chola Catalogue March 2011.



Fantastic chola Nataraja and not matching any of the bronzes published by the Idol wing. It is pertinent to point out that the IFP has two bronze Nataraja’s listed in their archives under roll number 11207 from Sripuranthan. Was there a second Nataraja stolen from the same temple?

We have also had a kind volunteer submit paper cuttings of Art of Past advertisements in Art of Asia volumes and they have been invaluable in ascertaining provenance for ( yet unreported) findings. However, there are a few more interesting bronzes from those which we are putting in public domain for people to help report.

Somaskanda- Chola

This is different from the published Somaskanda from suthamalli – photo from the Idol wing which is still to be traced.

Jaina MahaYaksha – Chola

Very rare to see a Jaina bronze but sculpted in classic Chola style.

Parvathi – late Chola ?

We hope the above will help unravel more and spur the authorities to do a more through job

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 6- Seized bronzes with ICE?

In our ongoing series on the stolen bronzes, we present today further evidence / clues to the identity of a few bronzes seized by America – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as per their earlier press releases

As before we have compared the images from Idol wing press release ( albeit very poor quality images) and progress made till date is shown in this file with images already identified with red ticks and subjects taken for today highlighted in red boxes.

We have one more bronzes which does not figure in the Idol Wing press release but was reported in the Hindu paper article – of Chandikeshwara.

It is also important to point out that as per this article of the New Indian Express states 26 missing bronzes – the idol wing has photos of only 15 (+1 – the nataraja + umai combo) – 16 in all. With the Chandikeshwara it is 17 now still leading 9 unaccounted for.

Coming back to our study, lets take the bronzes from right to left of the photograph.

1. Sripuranthan Thani Amman.

Cropped photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol Wing

Side by Side Comparison

2. Suthamalli Astra Devar

Cropped photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol wing ( actually the Idol wing image seems to be transposed)

Corrected Idol Wing photo

Side by side comparison


3. Suthamalli Sivagami Amman

Cropped Photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol Wing

Side by Side comparison


4. Chandikeswarar

Cropped Photo from ICE

Image from Hindu paper

Side by side comparison

5. Sripuranthan Sivagami Amman

Cropped Photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol Wing

Side by side comparison


With better quality photos the case for seeking return of these bronzes must be simple enough !!

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 5- Suthamalli Uma Parameshvari?

Today we make further progress in this case. We are in the pursuit of the very first image in Idol wing document.

Titled Sivagami Amman or Thani Amman in it. Lets take a closer look.

Now we go back to another catalogue from the accused’s gallery Art of Past. This time is March 2011 – a full 6 years after the loot and 2 years after the Idol wing published the photographs.

And take a look at the Catalogue item number 10 – Titled Devi Uma Parameshvari


It has some very stunning photographs of the Devi from different angles. Lets take a closer look a them.





Now, lets compare the two bronzes side by side.


Focusing more closely


Do you notice the similarities. Some more to assist you.


Compare the lower body and the base


The audacity of the idol smugglers is thus revealed – to attempt to sell a published stolen bronze so brazenly. As long as we do not have a comprehensive policy to photodocument and archive them properly the loot will continue. Our temples and custodians must see the strong deterrent such an effort can be, but till they are stubbornly spurning it away – How can we make them aware that its high time they realise that technology and advances in making such archives cost effective, easily accessible databases could put an end to this loot.

We will continue our pursuit…

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 4- Here is the Suthamalli Nataraja?

In the previous post we analysed the Sripuranthan Nataraja and raised definitive arguments for its comparison to the one in Australia. The post also raised questions on the other Nataraja – the Suthamalli one. To help you refresh your memory we take a look at the Idol wing release.

Today we are going to further search for this bronze. The famed Nataraja of Suthamalli.

This magnificent bronze has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, yet it was this crucial sculpture that helped to eventually crack the case as evidenced in this Hindu article.

Now the Idol wing put up these photos on its site sometime around 2009, a full 4 years after the theft. But we were quite surprised and filled with anguish when google returned us this March 2010 catalogue of the Art of Past gallery !!

Exhibit 6

Including macro closeup views of what appears to be the same bronze.



A full year after the Idol wing put up the photos, the gallery published high resolution images of the same bronze and canvassed for sale. How can we be so sure it is the same bronze ? Its the same story of uniqueness of the lost wax process.

There are tell tale clues in the circle of flames in this bronze too – the circle is a modification over the Sripuranthan bronze and has a secondary ring. the shape of the inter weaning holes provides us the clues.

There is also a unique design element combined with a dent on the same.

The shape of the Lord’s twirling locks and the snake ornament are the same well – infact his locks are splendidly ornamented with different gems – if only we had a higher resolution photograph from the authorities !!

As the Lord danced he twirled around and in this constant state of motion his adorning cloth is shown not only flying off but getting twisted on its own axis akin to how you would dry a wet towel – and the way the two ends of the cloth are attached are unique as well.

So we can be sure without doubt that both are one and the same.

There is a more specific clue which is already mentioned in the Hindu report, of an inscription sutavalli ( spelled with a tamil va instead of Ma for some reason) which is on the base pedestal. Since it is already discussed we do not dwell much on it but the old photo does not have this since it was taken prior to it being cleaned ! However, the above comparisons do prove without doubt that both are one and same. The inscription on the base however, is important , as we have reason to believe that all the bronzes of Sutamalli could have this on their bases – and hence have remained unsold ! The multitudes of prospective buyers who thronged the gallery are hence complicit in the crime !

A further argument on the above postulate will be explained in the next part of this series – where we look at what the catalogue described thus….” This is an extremely rare and important matched pair of the Shiva Nataraja and his consort, Uma Parameshvari. The divine couple have not only survived together as an original set, but also remain in complete states, with
their flaming prabhas and lotus pedestals.”

In search of Uma Prameshvari….to be continued.

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 3- Where is the Suthamalli Nataraja?

Following the fantastic piece of investigative journalism by the Chasing Aphrodite team, we continue to dig and present data that we feel will be raise pertinent questions.

We are back to Idol wing’s published photos of the missing bronzes from the two temples – Suthamalli and Sripuranthan.

Focus on the two Nataraja bronzes. One from Suthamalli

and one from Sripuranthan


It is clear by observing the Prabhavali or the circle of flames surrounding the bronze that the two are very different though the stylisation of the Dancing Lord is almost the same.

We have the Nataraja in the National Gallery which is said to “closely resemble” one of these – but which one? Lets study them.


Once again the circle of flames helps us know that this resemblance is to the Sripuranthan bronze and not to the Suthamalli Nataraja.

Now as published in the Chasing Aphrodite scoop, new photos have emerged of what appears to be the same bronze in the hand of the smugglers in an apartment in India sometime around 2006.


The accused Kapoor’s Art of the Past had published this photo in its Catalogue.

Now, as elaborated many times and also highlighted in the gallery’s defenses – there are hundreds of Nataraja bronzes in South Indian temples and they look very similar. However, to the trained eye it is very easy to spot the differences, credit again goes to the lost wax process wherein each is designed by hand, uniquely in wax before being cast in metal. So even with the hazy photos from the Idol wing / Archives – let us draw your eye to one particular aspect of the bronze. Count the flames in the ring and focus on the third one on his right – right under the uplifted foot

Do you see that part of the flame has broken off. Now let us compare all the images with us.



Ironically the Lord seems to point out this if you let your eyes follow his bent lower left hand !!!

Ascertaining this fact must not take a few seconds if only we had a better quality image from the Idol wing / IFP Pondy archives.

So one thing is for sure, we are talking of the Sripuranthan bronze and it has been removed from its base pedestal as well !! The larger question remains as to where is the Suthamalli Nataraja now?

During the course of our Independent investigation, we found another magnificent bronze Nataraja in the Art of Past catalogue of March 2011.


Once again comparing the Prabhavali – it is not the Suthamalli Nataraja. If so where is this from ? Are there more temples from where these precious treasures have been looted and we are oblivious to it. Who is to search for these answers?

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 2- Case of the Suthamalli Subramanya

In our continuing independent investigation of the loot of India’s cultural treasures, we have unraveled many startling truths and begin our expose on the Kapoor files. The objective of this series is not only to bring these shady deals to light, but also build awareness of the total apathy towards the loot of our cultural treasures – despite having the best minds in technology it is quite disgusting that we are being taken for a ride – not only is this day light robbery but the sale is also happening right in front of us – making a complete mockery of our regulatory watchdogs.

On one side are our religious moral police who seek new reasons to stall our genuine efforts to photo document our treasures and create a cultural database which will be an effective deterrent for these looters and their bosses. On the other side is the bureaucracy and red tape that fails to put in place effective curbs and instead disturb century old customs by dumping sacred bronzes into a central warehouse – without even ensuring adequate safeguards of tagging and cataloging them.

Back to the said case – We understand that the details of this case have been published on the Idol wing’s official website sometime in 2009. It is really sad that such an important case has been handled in such a fashion – Dancing Sambandar is titled Krishnan, Chandikeshwara is labelled as Murugan and Astra devar as Deepalakshmi ! So much for experts situated right in chennai who could have been called in to assist.

Thankfully there is also a pdf file which has better labels. But the size and quality of these images leave a lot to be desired. Thankfully someone ( French Institute Pondichery) has documented these sometime in the 1970’s that we atleast have something to fight our case !

For the record the authorities in the Institute have not shared any photos or images with me – since i am not attached to any academic institute, nor am i a Research Scholar nor am i doing any Phd studies affiliated to any institute. I have tried explaining that my aim is nobler than mere personal academic gain and my fight is to bring these cultural treasures back home – but for the past two months i am left with the shady / grainy photos on the web only.

Ever since we broke the news of the Vriddachalam Ardhanari loot we have analysed hundreds of photos both in our image database and on the net for clues. We are thankful for google without whom we would never have stumbled on this – the past catalogues of Kapoor’s gallery Art of the Past. We take up the Catalogue September 2009 for our investigation.

Of interest is item number 14.

The gallery has really put up some wonderful images of the bronze on its catalogue.



Now back to the pdf released by the Idol wing – notice the one marked in red at the bottom.

We could at best cull out this from the same for our study.

As you can see its a badly cropped image and tried our best to resize

It is very evident that we having fine bronze of Murugan / Subramanya with his characteristic attributes with us. It is not a Chola bronze but a Vijayanagara period creation ( as expertly advertised in the catalogue).

Are we talking of the same piece – one phtoographed insitu in the temple in Suthamalli and one in USA for the Art of the Past Catalogue.

Though the tradition of bronze crafting did deteriorate post the 12th C CE Chola period in terms of artistic and aesthetic beauty the basics were still the same. So you are still have the same basic process of manufacture via the lost wax and hence each bronze is indeed unique. I would like to bring your attention to some unique aspects of this particular work – the fashioning of the hands and in particular the way the thumb is fashioned is rather crude but comes to our rescue.


Moving to the ornamentation – the ear ornaments are pretty unique as well as the medallion on the chest.


Thus even with these low resolution images it is quite easy to prove the loot. The larger question remains as to where is this bronze currently. Has it been sold to some museum or art dealer or still in the Warehouse of the Art Gallery in America?

There is one more important clue that is going to help us by not being present !! Yes, there is a reason why the looters removed the deity from its base pedestal.

We shall see why and many more startling facts and revelations in the coming posts. 2 down – 26 more to go !!

When the Pencil Jammers went to the Museum

I have been to museums quite often – right from my school days and seeing all those beautiful exhibits left me feeling low and not high. Yes, instead of just marching past, there was always an inner urge – a craving to put my abilities to the test. But my limited time was spent chasing too many leads and art fell away somewhere enroute but the craving still remains and like the proverbial last leaf – i still have a few canvases waiting for my masterpiece !

Maybe that is why i try and beseech those endowed with that talent and pester them to do by bidding !! Murali has been one such artist – whom i have pestered on and on and he has obliged more often than not. But then imagine a whole group of such talented artist descending upon a museum – that too the famed bronze gallery in chennai !!

They are the “Chennai Weekend Artists”

Here are some of their output…..at first i thought i would post the sculpture photos along with the sketches but then decided to just showcase just their art !!

Mr Balaji




Mr. Ganapathy Subramaniam


Mr. Karmuhilan Chellakkannu

Mr. Muralidharan Alagar










Ms. Nithya




Mr. Subhash Rao



Ms. Anbuselvi




I hope many more such efforts are encouraged especially among school children instead of just parading them infront of the exhibits and CWA take up such collaborative sessions with schools and colleges. It will help to spread awareness about our great heritage while ecouraging young artists by giving them interesting choice of subjects instead of just two hills with the sun rising in between !!

For those interested to know more about the CWA:

CWA is a group of artists and art enthusiasts who sketch on location in and around Chennai during weekends. CWA meets every Sunday at a location of interest. Any media is encouraged, though we mostly tend to focus on traditional methods. CWA comprises people from all walks and stages of life. only thing that unites is a passion to draw, paint and appreciate art. We share our knowledge through regular “Mini talks”, which are short focused and well researched practical how-to’s on the various facets of art. All are welcome to join. We use the below groups to share information about upcoming events, photos, reports and works by members.
CWA is a not for profit group.

Operates at
FB:
Penciljammers:

Group mail: [email protected]
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Report for Museum meeting:
Penciljammers:
FB: