Showing posts with label Buddha. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buddha. Show all posts

February 13, 2020

19 profiles, posting to just one thread, within one private group, on one social media site. How many more are out there just like this one?

Group Member 1
Two of 23 stucco buddhas that I took out from storage. Varying from 25 cm to 40 cm. in height. Purchased in the 90’s as Ming, but I feel that they could be much older, Jin or Song perhaps. They came in batches of hundreds.... some poor temples raided. I had first pick, perks being good friend of dealer and selected the best ones. They were all gone within 2 weeks, a Korean bought the whole lot and shipped them to Korea. Any thoughts most welcomed!

Group Member 2
great to have the complet [sic] set

Group Member 1
no complete set.... there were hundreds! They came in three batches of about 150 to 200 pieces each.

Group Member 3
 Did they all come from a single place?

Group Member 1
yes! Poor temple got raided .... from Shanxi. Am sure these were dug out from the walls of the temple.

Group Member 3
Ouch 😰

Group Member 4
I heard was a cave but who knows? Here is a larger one, looks to have been restored/repaired about two or three times over.Free standing- not pried off a wall.

Group Member 1
what is the size? Do you have a photo of the back? Think they added a hand and repainted it .... looks wooden and stiff

Group Member 4
H: 43, made with clay and straw like ,adobe.

Group Member 1
I see what they have done!!! They added a that it is no longer 2D

Group Member 4
No, I don't think the back was added (imo), on mine. It was "sculpted' or not molded.

Group Member 1
if you say so!

Group Member 4
I do.

Group Member 1
#4 am sure you seen these but not this quality !
[Image file deleted]

Group Member 4
I've had a few, very nice and hard to find in such good condition.

Group Member 5

Group Member 6
My guess!! is Yuan or early Ming - based superficially only on hairdo and facial features.

Group Member 7

Group Member 8
Just beautiful

Group Member 9
do you mind me saying that I find it alarming that someone knowingly buys looted, stolen things. You would probably not do it when it is a stolen television, but you would when it’s about a statue many people have revered during many years?

Group Member 3
I often have mixed feelings about these things. On one hand it saddens me that some historical and cultural heritage suffered irreversible damage from this. On the other hand, I would hate to see something like this in the hands of uncaring individuals who only see them as a commodity.

Group Member 10
I absolutely agree. This is disgusting :(

Group Member 4
*inserts laughing GIF*

Group Member 11
These were different times back then. In some ways they were going to be sold one way or another. At least they went somewhere they were protected/conserved.

Group Member 6
We do not know when the poor temple was raided and for what reason...

Group Member 12
With that logic not a single item would exist after cultural revolution. So you cannot demonize looting as a whole.

Group Member 13
The Buddhas could be from a temple that was impacted by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam which began in 1994.

Group Member 12
i thinks or more of sort of looted for profit. As 99,9% of all items 😜 Off course its bad and not good but sometimes it happens that it was retrospectively better that those items where moved out of a country for other generations.

Group Member 13

Group Member 1
I share your view. If that is your case , anything coming out of China without the wax seal mark prior to 1980 is illegal. After that, anything that is Qianlong or after, is illegal from China too. With the mass destruction and looting done by the West in the past, the trend continues but a trickle..... totally for commercial reason. By your values, every stolen object should be returned to China and anything pre Qianlong you yourself traded in from China, is illegal too.... including all the Tang, Han, Ming tomb figures . I totally am totally sympathetic to the wanton destruction for commercial gain, but could not help myself, if I see something beautiful and affordable. They would and have disappeared into the market. At least I have a few and sharing their beauty here.

Group Member 1
(Speaking to Group Member 10) all your Chinese Buddhas and wooden deities/altar figures were also stolen from temples!

Group Member 1
the buddhas were from Shanxi, North China.

Group Member 11
Also none of these are "cultural relics" level items.

Group Member 10
I don't think it is the same situation. Most of my pieces were inherited, bought in Macau, prior to the Cultural Revolution when the Chinese didn't really care about those pieces, and when there were plenty for sale in Macau. Later, many others were bought to Chinese from the mainland, bringing them to Macau saving them from being destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. I think it is totally different than just looting temples for sale.

Group Member 12
at some point in their life they where in a temple

Group Member 10
not necesserally. Many were in private houses. I am sure you know there were beautiful private houses and palaces all over China and their owners brought what they could to Macau fleeing Communism China.

Group Member 1
looted items, with time is still looted items. Whether the Chinese cared or not is immaterial, but they were not taken from temples illegally. The inheritance of looted items do not make it ok. The buddhas just appeared in the streets of Hollywood one day in two or three dealer’s shops. I was dramatic to say looted, but maybe the temple was being torn down for some development or other reason.

Group Member 1
p.s. every piece of antique older has passed through many hands, even generations. Are you certain that every piece you have has legal provenance?

Group Member 12
objectively nobody can say that. I really dont understand the witch hunt here. 99,9% of all antiques are somehow looted if you dont keep them in the country of origin. Just think about all the museums which are full of stolen goods of major cultural significance.
looted and cultural appropiated
etc etc....

Group Member 14
Sadly, much of what we collect was, at some point, probably taken forcibly. There are religious items for sale that come out of European churches and monasteries all of the time. I own a few of the smaller items, but I was very tempted to buy a life size wooden statue of an angel that came out of a church somewhere in Eastern Europe. The truth of the matter is we cannot know for sure about most of the things we own or have purchased. I look at what I have collected and ponder this quite often. Collecting things will always be a double edge sword.

Group Member 5
well said.

Group Member 15
I am glad others shared the same dilemma as I do, as much as I know, the items that I owned were purchased from the owners but you can never be sure of its origin. I have been in a situation (uncomfortable) where the children of the owners (still alive and sad) are trying to sell their parents collections or heirloom to me. They claim it's taking up space and need the money for their medical bills. And I have met some monks who told me stories about how in the past they dont need to lock their monasteries but not so now. They show me places or empty spots where something sacred used to sit. And the metal chains and locks around those that survived.

Group Member 16
If it weren't for stolen objects, most (if not all) museums in the US and Europe would be shut for lack of artifacts. That is NOT justifying the looting, only a sad statement of fact.

Group Member 15
though there is a conscious effort now to return and recall back for those items but they will never return them.

Group Member 17
If a artifact ends up in my home it was karma

Group Member 18
Lots of Hindu temples dating as early as 7-11 century were broken down in Bangladesh ,the statues ended up in antique shops in Dhaka ,Guess many were exported to Europe and the authorities did not care as its a Islamic nation and were not keen to protect the ancient archeological heritage .

Group Member 15
also too poor and too many of them around. I am working on nature conservation, people don't care about these things if their stomach is hungry and children are crying for food

Group Member 19

Transcribed as written from one day's posting (12 February 2020) within one private Facebook group.
  • 19 profiles.
  • None of which are from islamic countries. 
  • None seemingly terrorists, or buying ancient art from (current) terrorists.  
  • All posting in one singular thread, within one private group, on one social media site. 
How many more groups, just like this one, are out there?

{\displaystyle \mathrm {N} \!\!\mathrm {B} }
That was a rhetorical question. Too many to monitor.

August 15, 2018

Repatriation: The Case of the Stolen TEFAF Buddha

Screen Shot of ID Matching Buddha stolen 57 years ago.
Image Credit:  ARCA with permission from ASI Archives in India
In a tale that began as a follow up to a funding initiative, I was scheduled to be in the Netherlands this past March to meet with folks at Maastricht University who ARCA was collaborating with on an EU funded Horizon 2020 grant proposal designed to address the critical issues involved the illicit trafficking of antiquities (which, by the way, we were later not awarded).  "The European Fine Arts Fair," or more simply by its art market acronym, TEFAF.  Part of the impetus for meeting in the Netherlands was that I was already in Maastricht, as each year, since 1988, the city has played host to an annual art, antiques, and design fair at the MECC which is organized by The European Fine Art Foundation called

I was at TEFAF to keep an eye open for looted antiquities which might be on sale with fabricated provenances — artworks from the ancient past which have no legitimate pedigree as they have been looted directly from the ground.  Illicit antiquities like these have a propensity for eventually bubbling up into auction house and trade fair sales as their illicit excavation from archaeologically rich sites means that they will not appear in any for-fee stolen art database searches as there is no way to report a previously unknown object as missing.  Once a looted object gains a plausible fabricated provenance, it only takes a few purchases and a publication in one or two glossy exhibition catalogs, to give a looted object a superficial patina of legitimacy.

I was not expecting to find an object stolen from a museum as these types of thefts are routinely registered with police, as well as with art market theft databases.  Searching services, conducted by Art Loss Register, are also incorporated into the vetting of objects for sale at TEFAF in both their New York and Maastricht sales events and are designed to reduce or resolve art-related ownership disputes.

But on Thursday, 15 March 2018 around lunchtime, I pressed the send button on my smartphone application and passed a high resolution photo of a suspicious object I had seen at the stand of one of the international art dealers.  The photo sent was of a Post-Gupta, seated Buddha in the Bhumisparsha Mudra pose, a delicate bronze with his right hand as a pendant over the right knee and with the palm of his left hand facing upward.  The person I sent the photo to was Vijay Kumar, the cofounder of India Pride Project.  

IPP has been responsible for identifying countless Indian treasures stolen and smuggled overseas, some of which have been found in prestigious museums around the globe.  Less than 2 hours later, and with careful comparison with  images obtained through a retired ASI employee, Dr. Sachindra S Biswas, Kumar and I were fairly confident we had a match.  

Image Credit:  Left - ARCA Photo from TEFAF Maastricht 2018
Right - ISA Archive photo
The following morning, Friday, 16 March 2018 and after multiple cross checks, between the photos of the object I took and those of the ASI, I contacted Martin Finkelnberg, Head of the Art and Antiques Crime Unit of the Netherlands National Police Force, INTERPOL, UNESCO and the Indian authorities and presented everyone with the supporting evidence of our identification.   In our opinion, as well as the opinion of two external experts, we felt confident, to the best of our abilities, that the object for sale at TEFAF in March 2018 was an exact match to one of 14 objects stolen from the Nalanda Archaeological Museum of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Nalanda, Bihar, India on August 22, 1961.

Despite its theft, the stolen Buddha was pictured in Ulrich Von Schroeder's book "Into-Tibetan Bronzes," a book published in Hong Kong in 1981.  By that time the object had already been satisfactorily laundered into the licit market and was  listed as part of a private collection in London.  

Pages from Ulrich Von Schroeder's book "Into-Tibetan Bronzes,"
illustrating the stolen Buddha
Based on the preponderance of evidence we presented, the Dutch police force acted immediately and sent officers to pay a visit to the dealer's representative on site at TEFAF for the last day of the Dutch fair.  The manager of the stand reported to the Dutch police that the firm was holding the object for a consignor who resided outside of the Netherlands.  

Working cooperatively with law enforcement, the dealer agreed to be in touch with the Buddha's current owner as well as New Scotland Yard, London's Metropolitan Police upon their return to London where an investigation could be taken up by the UK authorities.  ARCA and India Pride Project, in turn, passed all the evidence we had obtained on to Detective Constable Sophie Hayes, of New Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Unit. 

Once in London, Constable Hayes began her own necessary due diligence in order to ensure that our impressions were correct.  After reviewing the documentation we had provided to the London police, Hayes contacted France Desmarais of the International Council of Museums (ICOM).  

Desmarais arranged for a neutral external expert opinion on the Buddha currently held in the UK by the antiquities dealer for the consignor.  This evaluation was conducted for evidence of authenticity as well as in comparison to the evidence provided by ARCA and India Pride Project related to the theft in Nalanda, Bihar 57 years ago. 

ICOM's expert found the bronze in question to be authentic, and a match to one of the 14 objects stolen in 1961.

To understand how experts authenticate ancient art of this type it is important to understand that bronzes produced in the later medieval period (circa 12th century) in eastern India were made using the “lost wax” method.  This is a process where a wax model is made which can be used only once, as the wax melts away when the molten bronze is poured into the mould. For this reason, each bronze Buddha made using the lost wax method is unique, and while other Buddhas may have a similar appearances or poses, no two will be exactly alike as each object has to be made from its own individual wax mold. 

Completing this confirmation check took some time, as the number of post-Gupta era experts is limited and authentication is not something experts working in the museum community perform without careful consideration and thoughtful examination.  I'd like to personally thank both the anonymized expert and Ms. Desmarais for their time and expert assistance regarding the origins of this bronze. 

With ICOM's confirmation in hand, the Met's Art and Antiquities Squad worked to convince the current owner of the Buddha, who, along with the dealer had been cooperative throughout the investigation, to voluntarily relinquish the object back to its home country.   Today, it was handed over to Indian High Commissioner to the UK, YK Sinha during a ceremony this morning at the Gandhi Hall, India House, Aldwych in London, timed to coincide with India’s Independence Day.

Mr Rahul Nangare, First Secretary (Trade), High Commission of India,
and Dr Rajarajan, IPP volunteer
Imae credit:  IPP
Speaking with Vijay this morning hee stated "this is a great demonstration of inter governmental and activist groups and also the need for proper documentation. We hope this is just the beginning in finding closure to this case as we are still after the rest of the stolen artifacts. Hope the museums in America are looking at this with interest. "

While I, like Vijay am overjoyed that this stolen Buddha is finally going home, another similar to it, identified in February and stolen during the same theft, still sits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in Los Angeles, California.  The question remains, if the US-based museum will be as forthcoming as this collector and UK dealer.  Both of whom did the right thing by cooperating during the investigation and eventually returning the stolen object back to India voluntarily.  

By:  Lynda Albertson