Yale returns Tara to Nepal

The Tara sculpture in situ (left) and Sotheby's catalogue in 2000. Photos: ULRICH VON SCHROEDER and SOTHEBY'S

The Consulate-General of Nepal in New York on 6 May announced with Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut the return of a 9th-10th century stone sculpture of Tara/Parvati, which was stolen from the Bir Bhadreshwor Mahadev Temple in Golmadi, Bhakatapur in the 70s. 

The Consul-General of Nepal, Bishnu Gautam received the object on behalf of the Government of Nepal, and the sculpture will be transported to Kathmandu. 

Gautam thanked the University, Art Gallery, Director Stephanie Wiles, the Governing Board and the Curatorial team for their their thoughtful collaboration and added that their commitment to addressing cultural patrimony issues will help Nepal preserve its history and culture, and also support the national efforts to recover and reinstate the lost cultural properties.

Said Gautam : “We truly appreciate the Gallery’s collegiality regarding the research leading to the return of the Buddhist goddess Tara/Parvati.”


The Henry J. Heinz II Director Wiles remarked that the Yale University Art Gallery is committed to the ongoing study of artworks in its collection and to proactively responding to new information as it becomes available. 

“The decision to deaccession the sculpture was a collaborative one,” she said, “and we are grateful to the Consul General of Nepal in New York and the Department of Archaeology in Kathmandu for assisting us in completing the research that led to the return of this sculpture to Nepal.”

Both the Consulate-General and the Gallery also reiterated their interest in further strengthening the long-standing ties between Nepal and the United States. 

The argillite sculpture, measuring 70.5x38.1x13.07cm, was donated to the gallery in 2015. Citizen heritage activist group Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign initiated the return by filing a complaint at the Department of Archaeology (DoA) in Kathmandu and UNESCO on 5 July 2021. Research by the Gallery and the DoA confirmed that the sculpture had been installed at the Bir Bhadreshwor Mahadev Temple until at least 1976, where it was worshipped as the Hindu goddess Parvati in daily ritual. 

According to Ulrich von Schroeder's Nepalese Stone Sculptures, Volume Two, the diety was part of the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection until 2002, when it was sold at a Sotheby's auction as ‘Devi, Black Stone’ for USD18,000.

The sculpture will be transported to Nepal through the coordination of the Yale University Art gallery, Consulate-General of Nepal and the Department of Archaeology in Kathmandu, said the press release on Friday, with the gallery arranging its shipment. 

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