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Art/ Collecting Practices/ Repatriated Objects

Repatriated Objects

Important information on works in the collection come to us from multiple sources. Sometimes The Met learns through its own research that a work should be returned to its country of origin, based on our policies and the laws of the country in which it originated, and proactively returns the object. Occasionally, an outside source such as a journalist, external scholar, or law enforcement provides new information—often not available to the Museum—that shows that an object should be returned. The Museum welcomes and takes very seriously any new information about objects in the collection and is dedicated to seeking resolutions as appropriate. The decision to return a work of art follows an established process of review by curatorial departments, Counsel’s Office, and the Board of Trustees. 

In 2021 and 2022 we initiated the return of two objects to the Government of Nepal: a thirteenth-century wooden Temple Strut with a Salabhinka and a tenth-century stone sculpture, Shiva in Himalayan Abode with Ascetics. Both sculptures were given to The Met as gifts. Research undertaken by the Museum determined that the objects should be returned to Nepal. In both instances, the Museum contacted the Government of Nepal to offer the return of the sculptures and arranged for the objects to be transported to Nepal.

In 2018, we initiated the return of two objects to the Government of India: an eighth-century stone sculpture of a Hindu goddess, Durga Mahishasuramardini, and a limestone sculpture from the third century, Head of a Male Deity. The Durga was donated to the Museum in 2015. In the course of research, Museum staff recognized it from the 1969 publication The Archaeology of Kumann (including Dehradum), by K. P. Nautiyal, in which the Durga was described as being housed in the Chakravarteswara Temple at Baijnath, a medieval capital in Uttarakhand, in northern India. The Museum contacted the Archaeological Survey of India, and The Met and India signed an agreement for its return in April 2018. Head of a Male Deity was donated to the Museum in 1986. Museum staff determined that it was part of the excavated inventory of the Nagarjunakonda Site Museum and offered to return it.  

In 2013, we returned to the Kingdom of Cambodia two tenth-century Koh Ker stone statues of “Kneeling Attendants”—after becoming aware of new documentary research that was not available to the Museum when the objects were acquired.

The Museum has also restituted or reached settlements regarding 10 works it determined had been unlawfully appropriated during the Nazi era without subsequent restitution:

These works are listed on the Nazi Era Provenance Research portal along with robust information on The Met’s work in this area of provenance research.

Below is partial list of works that have been restituted by The Met. Additional objects, related images, and ownership histories will be added here in the coming weeks.