A stone sculpture representing a Hindu deity is making its way back to Nepal nearly 40 years after it disappeared from a temple shrine and ended up in the Dallas Museum of Art.
For more than eight centuries, the sacred stele of Lakshmi-Narayana, a manifestation of the Hindu deities Vishnu and Lakshmi, watched over devotees in the Nepalese city of Patan until it suddenly disappeared, stolen by looters in 1984. Six years later, the eight-armed figure reappeared at auction at Sotheby’s, selling to a collector, who then lent it to the Dallas museum.
A spokesman for Sotheby’s said it did not have records from the 1990 sale on hand to clarify what provenance had been presented to it at the time the antiquity was put up for auction, but it said it was researching the matter.
But it wasn’t until late 2019, when an expert raised concerns about the Kathmandu Valley icon, that curators re-examined its provenance. That’s when the F.B.I. got involved, collaborating on a transfer of the sacred statue, with permission from its lender, from the museum to Nepal’s embassy in Washington that is taking place this week.
“As soon as we became aware of additional information on the stele, we began working with the lender and with the Embassy of Nepal to determine an ethical and appropriate course of action,” Agustín Arteaga, director of the Dallas Museum of Art, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are pleased to ensure the safe transfer of this invaluable object to its home.”