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Bangladeshi Durga at Rijksmuseum

A Hindu goddess with ten arms prepares to kill a small figure emerging from a buffalo. It is the popular Durga portrayed at the moment when she defeats the demon Mahisasura; she is holding weapons in nine of her ten hands. The scene is portrayed on a lotus-shaped base. Beneath it we see a Hindu believer, hands clasped in worship. This stone relief was originally built into the wall of a temple. The piece was produced in Bangladesh in the eleventh century.

The website of the Rijksmuseum shows the statue of a late 11th or early 12th century Durga, a Hindu goddess, killing a buffalo demon (1). It is one of the thousand masterpieces of the museum, and comes from Bangladesh. At the bottom of the invoice of the Peter Marks Gallery in New York, where the museum purchased the statue in 1992 for USD 65,000, it says: ‘Ex Collection: David Nalin’. drs Jos van Beurden, interviewed here by Shahidul Alam, informed the museum that it was possible that the statue was exported illegally after 1970 from Bangladesh and they answered: ‘Nice to know,’. Jos says ‘I trust that the Rijksmuseum acted in good faith, when it purchased this masterpiece, although Bangladesh’s instability of the early 1970’s and its impact on provenances should be general knowledge for insiders. The question is, whether the museum should reinvestigate its acquisition with this new information.’

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