TOLEDO, Ohio – An 11th-century Indian statue owned by an Ohio art museum may have been stolen before the institution purchased it.
The Toledo Museum of Art said it saw no signs of trouble when it bought the small bronze statue of a Hindu deity in 2006 from a New York dealer now charged in India. The statue resembles an idol now listed as stolen in India.
A museum spokeswoman tells The Blade newspaper that it is cooperating with a Justice Department inquiry into the statue's origin. For now, the museum is keeping the figure.
The institution has twice returned ill-gotten items. A mermaid figure stolen during World War II was returned to a German museum in 2011, and an illegally looted ancient water jug was handed over to Italy last year.
The Indian statue depicts the deity Ganesh, known as the Ganesha, and is on display in the museum's Asian Sculpture Gallery. The museum acquired the figure in 2006 from Subhash Kapoor, who later gave the museum 56 small terracotta idols that have never been displayed.
The museum also bought seven other pieces from Kapoor between 2001 and 2010, according to the newspaper.
Kapoor is facing trial in India on charges of illegal exportation, conspiracy and forgery.
Last month, a sandstone sculpture considered one of the world's most wanted stolen artworks was returned to India along with two other pieces that U.S. customs officials say Kapoor kept in a storage facility in New York City.
Museums don't carry insurance against the loss of pieces discovered to be stolen goods, said Brian Kennedy, director of the Toledo Museum of Art.
The museum has not been asked to turn over the Ganesha, which closely resembles a figure listed as stolen in an Indian police report. The museum says it did adequate research before buying the statue.
The item is one of 18 metal idols missing from a village in Tamil Nadu, a state in southeast India. The Indian police department sent the museum copies of the report along with photos of the looted goods in July, according to the museum's website.