A sixth-century Hindu artifact is the latest object seized from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Mother Goddess (Matrika)” (mid-6th century), India (Rajasthan, Tanesara), gray schist, 24 1/2 inches x 9 inches (all images via Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Another looted object is about to be seized from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art: This Tuesday, August 30, the Manhattan District Attorney’s (DA) Office issued a search warrant for a sixth-century Indian statue representing a Hindu Matrika deity. The statue, valued at $300,000, was a 1993 gift to the museum from collectors Florence and Herbert Irving.

This summer, the museum relinquished 21 Ancient Greek and Roman artifacts to the Manhattan DA in response to a July 11 search warrant, as reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) this week. Those looted antiquities included a marble head of Athena (valued at $3 million), a terracotta kylix ($1.5 million), and a marble head of a horned youth (also $1.5 million). The DA estimated the total value of the objects at upwards of $11 million.

Regarding the seizure of those artifacts, Kenneth Weine, the museum’s chief communication’s officer, told Hyperallergic: “The Metropolitan Museum of Art has been fully supportive of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office investigation and of the return of these objects to Italy, based on information recently made available to The Met. The Met has a long and well documented history of responding to claims regarding works of art, restituting objects where appropriate, being transparent about the provenance of works in the collection, and supporting further research and scholarship.”

The affidavits that justified these two most recent search warrants are sealed, making it unclear whether any of the objects are associated with the suspected antiquities trafficking ring that made headlines over the last few months.

The Met’s “Marble Head of Athena” (c. 200 BCE) was one of the 21 objects listed in the July search warrant. The DA valued the head at $3 million.
A terracotta kylix (c. 470 BCE) valued at $1.5 million was seized from the Met in July.
The ancient Roman “Bronze statuette of Jupiter” (second half of 2nd century CE) was another antiquity listed in the July search warrant.

Antiquities illegally traded by that crime ring — investigated largely by the Manhattan DA’s Art Trafficking Unit — have turned up at the Met in the past. In May, the Manhattan DA seized $3 million worth of looted Egyptian antiquities from the museum, and in 2019, the Met was forced to return a prized ancient Egyptian gold coffin after it was revealed to have been trafficked by the high-profile smugglers.

As investigators uncover the reach of the trafficking operation, the Louvre’s former president was charged with antiquities trafficking in May, two top collection advisors at the Louvre Abu Dhabi were detained in July over the museum’s acquisition of stolen Egyptian artifacts, and in August, the Manhattan DA issued an arrest warrant for its own former art trafficking informant.

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.