Faith Stolen: Lost in Nepal, Found in America

Finally, the Chintamani Lokeswar (NO4) was traced to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), but the image in the collection’s database did not match the one in Slusser’s photo. The Lokeswar in her picture held a branch with his left hand, while the deity in the museum’s catalog held it with his right hand. The statue was donated to LACMA in 1984 by Anna Bing Arnold.

We thought the Lokeswar in the photo in Slusser’s book and LACMA might have been part of a couple. We put the photo titled “Lost Twins” online in March 2018 to get a response from the museum.

Then photos from the University of Michigan archives, taken in 1988 from the LACMA collection, were discovered. Below was another image of the same Lokeswar that matched Slusser’s image perfectly. The photo on the museum’s website turned out to be a mirror image, and LACMA later corrected it on its website.

Meanwhile, the search for the three Nrityadevi led us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) in New York. This is a rare and unique motif in Nepal’s religious iconography, so it was easy to identify. One of the three of Slusser’s photo matched perfectly with an image in the Met catalog, complete with a broken right left hand (NO5). The statue was added to The Met’s collection by the Zimmerman family in 2016.

Another Nrityadevi (NO3) was discovered in 2019 when it was put up for sale at Bonham’s Auction in New York. It was acquired in New York in 1982 and was part of a private collection in Florida by a person who had once served as a diplomat in Nepal. Their identities have been kept anonymous as they agree to repatriate the statue to Nepal.

The Standing Tara (NO1) was then at the Art Institute of Chicago. This was difficult to compare as in Slusser’s photo he was draped in a ceremonial robe with only his head and unique facial expression visible. The statue was gifted to the institute in 2014 by prominent collector of Himalayan art, Marilynn B. Alsdorf.

The Alsdorf Collection had other stolen Nepalese artifacts and many of them are still in the Art Institute, including the 17th century Taleju necklace CE from Hanuman Dhoka, stolen 46 years ago.

The last remaining Nrityadevi (NO2) was traced to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was acquired by the museum in 2000 with the Stella Kramrisch Fund – named after another prominent scholar of Nepalese art.

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