500-year-old statue of a Hindu deity on display in an Australian art gallery has been identified as a stolen artifact, opening up the possibility it could be returned to India, the gallery has confirmed.
The 16th century statue of Siva Nataraja, or Dancing Shiva, owned by the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in Adelaide, was identified in a 1958 photo as one that went missing from a temple in the Indian city of Nellai in the 1970s, according to a report in Australian state broadcaster ABC.
The statue was one of four stolen from the temple when thieves broke a lock to gain entry, the report said.
Though it is thought to have been stolen in the 1970s, it wasn’t reported missing until 1982. A police investigation at the time failed to identify any suspects.
In a statement, the AGSA said it was “continuing its proactive role in the research” of the statue, adding that it was identified as stolen in September 2016 due to ongoing research undertaken by the gallery’s Asian Art curator.
AGSA says it will cooperate with all relevant parties to determine the next step, which “may well include the repatriation of the object.”
The statue still is listed in the gallery’s online catalog.
Indian authorities are preparing a formal claim to repatriate the statue, according to S. Vijay Kumar, co-founder of the India Pride Project (IPP), a global network of volunteers which tracks down and repatriates Indian heritage works.