Buff Sandstone Panel Depicting Revanta and His Entourage, from India, in the 8th Century A.D.,

 

Federal authorities marked the upcoming Asia Week in New York by seizing two allegedly looted sculptures that had been slated for auction as part of the festivities.

The objects included a panel showing Revanta, a minor Hindu deity of hunting who bestows protection from the dangers of the forest and is often depicted atop a horse with a bow, and a stele of Rishabhanata, the first teacher of the ancient non-violent Jainism religion.

Below is the ICE account of the investigation:

ICE recovers stolen Indian artifacts from major auction house ahead of Asia Week New York
3.11.16

NEW YORK— Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in conjunction with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office seized two stolen Indian statues Friday, believed to be from the 8th and 10th centuries A.D., according to ICE officials.

The artifacts were recovered from Christie’s auction house in New York City and are the result of an international investigation led by HSI and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the government of India and Interpol.
The seizure comes just days before a planned March 15, 2016 auction of the items as part of the “Asia Week New York” festivities. Christie’s had included the two artifacts in an auction entitled: “The Lahiri Collection: Indian and Himalayan Art, Ancient and Modern.”

The two artifacts listed in the auction as lots 61 and 62 are described as:

A Buff Sandstone Stele of Rishabhanata, from Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, India, in the 10th century A.D, approximately 22 3/8 inches high, and depicting a stele carved with the first Jain Tirthankara (a teacher who preaches dharma) seated in vajrasana (crossed leg pose) and flanked by a pair of standing attendants, and valued at approximately $150,000.

A Buff Sandstone Panel Depicting Revanta and His Entourage, from India, in the 8th Century A.D., approximately 30 by 53 inches, depicting a very rare representation of the equestrian deity, Revanta, a figure of great importance in Hinduism, and valued at approximately $300,000.

According to the ongoing investigation, the Sandstone of Rishbhanata appears to have been sold by Oliver Forge to London–based Brandon Lynch Ltd between 2006 – 2007. The Panel of Revanta, according to images provided by the source dealer, appeared to have contained an “orphan fragment,” a piece perfectly broken off to be sold by the smugglers after the sale of the main part of the sculpture.

Agents were able to determine that both of these artifacts had come from a specific smuggler and supplier of illicit cultural property in India. HSI special agents have tracked many false provenances and this has been one of the pillars of Operation Hidden Idol. This methodology of back-tracking an artifact has led to numerous recoveries.
Over the past four years, the Manhattan DA’s Office and HSI New York have partnered on Operation Hidden Idol, focusing on activities surrounding the illicit cultural property trade in New York. The investigation has also identified Subhash Kapoor, who is currently in custody in India awaiting trial for allegedly looting tens of millions of dollars’ worth of rare antiquities from several nations. Within the past twelve months, four domestic museums and one major collector have partnered with HSI to surrender illicit cultural property stemming from Kapoor. To date, HSI special agents, in conjunction with the Manhattan DA’s Office, have netted in excess of 2,500 artifacts worth over an estimated $100,000,000.00. Additionally, four individuals have been arrested in the U.S. for their role in the scheme

 

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