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A Christ figure with a halo

Looted Statue Returned to Nepal with Help of Art Institute of Chicago

A looted sculpture of a Hindu deity has been sent back to Nepal with the help of the Art Institute of Chicago. The work, known as a linga, is a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva with four faces. Also called a caturmukhalinga, the schist sculpture dates back to the 6th century.

The linga had been in the hands of a private collector, and the Art Institute of Chicago assisted in helping Nepal recover the sculpture, a spokesperson for the museum said in a statement to ARTnews. According to the spokesperson, who declined to state the name of the collector, the work had never been accessioned by the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum did not provide a provenance for the work or a date for when it is believed to have been stolen.

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A Christ figure with a halo

“The Art Institute of Chicago has worked closely with a lender and the Government of Nepal to arrange the safe transfer of the Linga with Four Faces (caturmukhalinga) back to its home country,” the spokesperson said. “We are extremely pleased with this outcome and are grateful for the partnership of the lender and the Government of Nepal.”

In an email, a representative for the Nepali Embassy in the U.S. confirmed that the artifact was en route Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, and said that it would be delivered “at an appropriate time.” The representative said that he could not comment further, citing an “agreement” reached between the collector and the embassy.

The news comes a little over a month after a similar return to Nepal involved another major U.S. institution, the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas, which sent back a sacred stele of Lakshmi-Narayana that had been stolen from a Hindu shrine by looters in 1984. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation got involved after experts identified the work as having likely been stolen in 2019.

And in February, some activists began raising concerns about a sacred tablet depicting Shiva held by the Denver Art Museum in Colorado, accusing the museum of housing a work that was stolen from Nepal. The Denver Art Museum denied these claims in an article published by the magazine 5280, saying that it had received “no official inquiries about this piece.”

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