As part of the museum's ongoing provenance efforts and communicating about repatriations as they take place, we are also sharing information about past repatriations, including two sculptures returned to the Republic of India in 2019 and 2022. In collaboration with government officials in the U.S. and India, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) handed over both sculptures for their return. Both artworks were part of the museum’s Arts of Asia collection.
Celestial Woman, 2019
The Denver Art Museum (DAM) deaccessioned the artwork titled Celestial Woman (also called Tree Goddess) in November of 2018, and transferred the piece to the Republic of India through officials at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York in September of 2019.
Celestial Woman is a 38-inch-tall stone sculpture of a tree goddess. The piece was gifted to the museum in 1982. Prior to that, the artwork was on long-term loan at the DAM starting in 1965. The object comes from the Baroli Temple, Rajasthan, India, and dates to the 9th or 10th century.
The DAM received a formal repatriation request for this artwork in 2015, and in 2016 hosted officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Colorado to view the object, and at that time provided all requested provenance information. In August 2018, U.S. officials provided the museum with facts enabling the museum to confirm the object was illegally removed from Baroli Temple. That same week, the museum began the process of deaccessioning the work and preparing it for its eventual return to India.
Sadashiva (Uma-Maheshvara), 2022
The DAM deaccessioned the artwork titled Sadashiva (also called Uma-Maheshvara), a nearly 19-inch-tall limestone sculpture dating to the 11th or 12th century, which was gifted to the museum in 1976. The artwork was deaccessioned from the museum’s collection in September 2021. In January 2022, the artwork was shipped to the Consulate General of India in New York.
The museum deaccessioned the object following the receipt of new facts about the sculpture and its history. In June 2021, the Denver Art Museum received direct contact from officials in India, requesting the artwork’s return and presenting evidence that the sculpture Sadashiva (Uma-Maheshvara) had been stolen in 1967 along with four additional sculptures from the temple at Adibadri (Uttrakhand). Although the other three sculptures from the temple were not in the DAM’s collection, the new facts previously unavailable to the museum included photographs, measurements, and an official government report from 1967 confirming the local thefts of the piece. Following this exchange and the sculpture’s deaccessioning, an official agreement regarding ownership, return and transport of the artwork was signed between the museum and the Republic of India through the Consulate General of India in New York, and the artwork was repatriated.
The Denver Art Museum continues to invest in its ongoing commitment to ethical collecting practices and engages in detailed provenance research for acquisitions as well as objects currently in its collection. The museum created a new Department of Provenance Research in September 2022 to expand its capacity for this important work to increase its knowledge around the objects in its collections. For more information and for updates about this ongoing work, please visit the museum’s Provenance Research information page at www.denverartmuseum.org/provenance.