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Oxford University to return 'stolen' bronze statue to India

BNE News Desk


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New Delhi: Oxford University has consented to return a 500-year-old bronze statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar to India. The decision comes in response to a formal request from the Indian High Commission, citing the statue's suspected theft from a temple in Tamil Nadu.

The university's Council, backing the claim on March 11, 2024, awaits final approval from the Charity Commission. Standing at 60 cm tall, the statue found its way into the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University in 1967, having been acquired from Sotheby’s auction house, originating from the collection of Dr. JR Belmont.

The statue's questionable origin was brought to light by an independent researcher in November of the previous year, leading the museum to engage with the Indian High Commission. While the Ashmolean Museum asserts its purchase was made in "good faith" and without knowledge of the statue's stolen status, the Indian government's formal request for its return spurred the decision.

Renowned for its diverse collection of art and archaeological artifacts, the Ashmolean Museum is Britain's first public museum.

This development echoes a growing trend of repatriating stolen Indian artifacts from the UK. Preceding this decision, in August of the previous year, a limestone carved relief sculpture from Andhra Pradesh and a 17th-century bronze sculpture of Navaneetha Krishna from Tamil Nadu were returned to India. The transfer followed a collaborative investigation by US and UK authorities, including Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Unit.

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BNE News Desk