Stolen 10th-century statue to be returned to Cambodia | Cruise Mekong River

Stolen 10th-century statue to be returned to Cambodia

Duryodhana

District attorney Preet Bharara with a picture of the Duryodhana bondissant. Photograph: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

An ancient statue of a warrior that was stolen in 1972 and almost went to auction three years ago is to be returned to Cambodia.

The 10th-century sandstone Duryodhana bondissant was stolen from the Prasat Chen temple at Koh Ker in Cambodia and first sold at auction in London in 1975.

It was supposed to have come back on the auction block at Sotheby’s in New York in March 2011 but the sale was stopped after Cambodian authorities made an appeal through Unesco.

The Koh Ker site is significant from a religious, historical, and artistic perspective, and the 1.58m-tall (5ft) Duryodhana is considered a piece of extraordinary value to the Cambodian people.

The New York district attorney Preet Bharara hailed the return to Cambodia of “a priceless piece of art, a priceless part of Cambodia’s unique cultural history”. He said: “After almost two years of litigation, the sellers have agreed to return it to where it belongs.”

A second statue, bought in 1976 by the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, is also to be returned to Cambodia. It depicts Bhima, a heroic figure in the Hindu epic Mahabharata, in a fighting pose.

Museum officials met Cambodian officials year and are returning the statue “as a gesture of friendship, and in response to a unique and compelling request by top officials in Cambodia to help rebuild its ‘soul’ as a nation”, the Pasadena museum said in a statement.

“The Norton Simon properly acquired the Bhima from a reputable art dealer in New York in 1976,” the museum said. “However, the facts about the Bhima’s provenance prior to the dealer’s ownership are unclear because of the chaotic wartime conditions in Cambodia during the 1970s.”

Cambodian officials believe it was looted from the 1,000-year-old Prasat Chen temple.

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Cambodia | The Guardian

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