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Valuable 19th Century Thanjavur painting stolen from Tamil Nadu to be brought back from USA

The painting depicting Maharaja Serfoji II and his son Shivaji II which was stolen from Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@hemantsarin)

The Director-General of Tamil Nadu Police K. Jayanth Murali announced today that a magnificent painting dating back to mid-19th Century of Maharaja Serfoji II of Thanjavur and Shivaji II, his son, which was stolen has been traced by the Idol Wing police.

The painting was stolen from Saraswathi Mahal Library in Thanjavur and landed in a museum in the US in 2006.

The artwork depicts Raja Serfoji and his youthful son, Sivaji II and according to some scholars it was most likely painted between 1822 and 1827 and kept in Saraswathi Mahal which was later opened to the public in 1918.

Tamil Nadu Police’s Idol Wing investigations revealed that the painting had been bought by Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) which is located in Salem, Massachusetts, US in 2006 from Subhash Kapoor, an art dealer. It may be recalled that Kapoor was arrested at Frankfurt airport on charges of trafficking stolen antiques in 2011.

On coming to know from Homeland Security Investigation that the painting was stolen and had falsified provenance, PEM handed over the work to the Department of Homeland Security.

Talking to the media, the DGP said: “Now, the wing has initiated steps to bring the painting of Serfoji back to Saraswati Mahal by proving the ownership through documents and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.”

The DGP added: “Further enquiries with the authorities concerned have confirmed our findings. The Idol wing hopes to retrieve the painting and restore it to the Saraswathi Mahal library under the UNESCO treaty soon. The wing has initiated steps to restore the painting to the library.”

Serfoji who died in 1832 was the last of Thanjavur’s Bhonsle Rajas. Shivaji, his son succeeded him and ruled till 1855 had no male successor. Thanjavur was made part of British India under the Doctrine of Lapse.