September 18, 2013

Disputed Vrishanana Yogini returned to India by widow of collector Robert Schrimpf

Posted at 1:17 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

The Vrishanana Yogini which vanished from a village temple in India and was smuggled out of the country, to be sold to an art collector in Paris. The statue was eventually traced down by the Indian embassy & the widow of the collector who had purchased it. She agreed to return it & it was flown back to India last month. Tomorrow, it will go on display at the National Museum in New Delhi.

The part of the story that is somewhat unclear to me is why it took five years between her handing the statue to the embassy and it being returned to India.

India Today

Once stolen from a UP temple, 10th-century Yogini idol returns to India
Sourabh Gupta New Delhi, September 17, 2013 | UPDATED 22:23 IST

The image of this powerful Yogini was carved on stone nearly 1,000 years ago and idol of the buffalo-headed female deity was installed in a village temple in UP’s Bundelkhand region.

Then one day, the sculpture, weighing over 400 kg, vanished- stolen and smuggled and sold to an art collector in Paris.

Luckily, the Indian embassy in Paris traced the missing 10th-century idol of Vrishanana Yogini and five years ago, widow of the man who had acquired the statue donated it to the mission.

Last month, the 4.5-foot Vrishanana Yogini was flown back to India and, on Thursday (September 19), it will be proudly put up on display in a one-of-its-kind show at National Museum in New Delhi.

“Yogini [was] pilfered from temple at Lokhari village (Banda district) in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh,” MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told India Today Online in a tweet on Tuesday.

Anatomy of a Yogini

Vrishanana Yogini sits on an unornamented stone slab in ‘lalitasana’, holding a club in the left hand and a ‘bilva’ fruit in the right.

Her ‘vahana’ (ride) is a swan that’s pecking the bilva.

The Yogini has a chiselled body with full breasts, slim waist and rounded abdomen.

Her eyes are half-closed in contemplation and the buffalo face is serene and meditative.

She wears a necklace, anklets, bangles and a girdle on the waist — signaling a tribal link.

According to National Museum, the Yogini cult started between the 6th and 10th centuries and is rooted in sacred texts such as ‘Skanda Purana’, ‘Agni Purana’, ‘Kaulajnananirnaya’ and in lists called ‘Yogininamavalis’.

Yoginis are female divinities — blending the divine and the demonic and are worshipped not individually but in a totality of 64 or 81.

They are seen as goddesses who can impart magical powers in worshippers.

How the deity returned home

The Vrishanana Yogini’s sculpture was trafficked to France and acquired by Robert Schrimpf — a private collector in Paris. Later, his widow, Martine Schrimpf, gave back the idol to the Indian embassy in Paris.

Then early this year, Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch saw the sculpture on a visit to Paris and asked National Museum to bring it back home.

“The exhibition aims at increasing awareness on the fascinating history of Yoginis and the elaborate rituals of their worship and highlight illicit trafficking of India’s priceless cultural artifacts,” National Museum Director General Venu V said in a statement.

The sculpture will be on display from September 19 to October 6.

J E Dawson, curator (archaeology), National Museum, said they had to try hard to convince the French authorities about the idol’s Indian origin and establish its authenticity.

“Three things went in our favour: we established its authenticity on the basis of a book, ‘Yogini: Cult and Temples — A Tantric Tradition’, brought out by the museum in 1986, which carried its picture; the widow of the French art collector couldn’t tell the source of its acquisition; and the art collector’s donation letter executed through an attorney,” Dawson said in a statement.

But it is not clear when the artifact was actually pilfered.

Not the first such pilferage

Vrishanana Yogini is not the first Yogini idol to be have been pilfered. Yogini sculptures from Kanchipuram have found their way to the USA and Canada and Britain.

They are on display at Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Freer-Sackler Gallery of Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and the British Museum in London.

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  1. Artantiq said,

    09.18.13 at 1:25 pm

    RT @elginism: Blog post: Looted Vrishanana Yogini returned to India by widow of Parisian art collector Robert Schrimpf…

  2. EricdeMarylebon said,

    09.18.13 at 1:45 pm

    RT @elginism: Blog post: Looted Vrishanana Yogini returned to India by widow of Parisian art collector Robert Schrimpf…

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