An ancient idol of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu religion’s most recognized deities, was found to have been replaced by a replica in the Korukkai Veerateeswarar temple in the Mayiladuthurai district of Tamil Nadu, India.
The replica idol was discovered after “elaborate” investigations by the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu Police during which 35 idols at the temple were checked for authenticity, according to The New Indian Express reported Wednesday. The idol, in which Lord Shiva is depicted as the supreme teacher of yoga, knowledge, and music, Shri Dakshinamurthy, was traced to the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio after an “ongoing audit at several temples in the delta region.”
In Cleveland, the idol is displayed as Shiva – Lord of Music. The 2.5-foot-tall bronze statue weighs about 92 pounds and is dated to between the ninth and 13th centuries. According to the provenance listed on the museum’s website, the idol was sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1971 by Doris Wiener Gallery in New York City. It is unclear where or when the gallery acquired the idol.
In 2021, Nancy Wiener, Doris’s daughter and owner of an eponymous Upper East Side gallery, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and “possession of stolen property in connection with the trafficking of looted treasures from India and Southeast Asia,” admitting in court that she falsified provenance documents in order to cover up unsavory details in the history of works she sold to major US museums and through auction houses, according to the New York Times.
Doris Wiener passed away in 2011. In the criminal complaint, prosecutors alleged that both she and her mother were involved for “decades with a network of smugglers and middlemen to obtain looted and stolen antiquities from across Asia,” investigative reporter Jason Felch reported on his blog about the illicit antiquities trade Chasing Aphrodite.
Nancy Wiener, prosecutors said, inherited “hundreds of illicit works” after her mother passed away. Then she “discarded their records, and arranged for inaccurate ownership histories” in order to sell the works. According to the criminal complaint, she then consigned 380 of the works to Christie’s, which sold them under the title The Doris Wiener Collection for $12.8 million in 2012.
Some of the items in Nancy Weiner’s possession when she was arrested in 2016 were smuggled into the United States by the prolific antiquities smuggler Subhash Kapoor, who was sentenced to a 10-year sentence in Kumbakonam, India last year, according to the New York Times.
The Cleveland Museum of Art did not immediately respond to a request for comment.