Peabody Essex Museum

SALEM — Peabody Essex Museum is turning over a mid-19th century portrait from its Indian Art Collection to the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Investigations division to aid with an ongoing international art fraud investigation.

The museum bought the portrait from art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who was arrested in 2011 on charges of trafficking in stolen antiques from India, according to a museum press release. 

“PEM’s legacy of cultural and artistic exchange with India extends over 200 years,” said Dan L. Monroe, Peabody Essex Museum’s Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Director and CEO, in the release. “The allegations of Subhash Kapoor’s art trafficking bring to light a nefarious ring of fraud, the discovery of which has sent shock waves through the art community."

The Tanjore portrait features Maharaja Serfoji II of Tanjavur and his son Shivaji II and was acquired by the museum in 2006 from Kapoor's New York gallery. The Homeland Security investigation determined that the portrait's provenance — its history of ownership — had been falsified. 

"PEM has undertaken a rigorous internal assessment of its collection and is working in full cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security," Monroe said in the release. "PEM remains deeply committed to collecting, stewarding and presenting exceptional works of art and culture from around the world.”

The museum is one of several institutions worldwide to have purchased art from Kapoor, the release states.

“I applaud the Peabody Essex Museum’s decision to assist HSI with our investigation by returning this precious artwork,” said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of HSI New York. “I hope their example sets the standard for other institutions that may have inadvertently purchased or received stolen artifacts.”

Peabody Essex Museum is well known for its collection of modern-era Indian art — one of the largest outside of India. 

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