Australia Returns Stolen Second-Century Buddha

Australia has returned this 2nd century Seated Buddha stone sculpture to India in 2015. Photo courtesy of the National Gallery of Australia.

The Australian government will return a stone Buddha statue to India after a provenance investigation by the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) discovered that it had been stolen, the Guardian reports. The Buddha is originally from Uttar Pradesh, India and dates to the second century. It was acquired by the NGA in 2007 for $1.08 million.

Last year, the discovery and subsequent return of a stolen $5.6 million, 900-year-old bronze Shiva, and a stolen $300,000 stone carving of Shiva and Nandi in the NGA’s collection prompted the museum to audit its entire 5,000-piece Asian art collection. The investigation resulted in this latest artifact, a red sandstone Buddha statue, also being identified as stolen. Fifty four other artifacts have been identified as having questionable provenances and will undergo further research.

The bronze and stone carving were both bought from the New York-based dealer Subhash Kapoor, who stands accused of being involved in a $100 million antiquities theft ring. However, the museum believes the Buddha was purchased from a different dealer.

In December, NGA director Gerard Vaughan said that it was “regrettable” that stolen antiquities had ended up in the museum’s collection. According to an Indian government official, the National Museum in Delhi has been in dialogue with the Australian government over the repatriation of the Buddha.

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