The Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg has officially returned a marble dado panel from the “Royal Palace of Mas’ud III in Ghazni” to Afghanistan.
MKG is one of the first German museums to return a work of art to Afghanistan.
Beyond investigating Nazi art looting and the issue of colonial collections, the museum has been increasingly turning its attention to more recent acquisitions as well.
In the late 1970s, it was stolen from Ghazni’s Rawza Museum of Islamic Art. Now, after years of research, assisted by scholars from the University of Hamburg and the Sapienza Universitá di Roma, as well as close cooperation between German and Afghan authorities, the panel can finally be handed back to its rightful owners.
For the time being it will be kept in the Afghan National Museum in Kabul.
The provenance was not a cause of concern at first, but upon closer study it turned out that the object had in fact been stolen from the Rawza Museum of Islamic Art in Ghazni.
It was possible to trace the dado panel to excavations carried out by archeologists from Afghanistan and Italy between 1957 and 1966.
The archeological finds were handed over at the time to the Rawza Museum, where they were documented as new accessions.
The later destabilization of Afghanistan in 1978 and the invasion by the Soviet Army in 1979 led to the museum’s collections being transported off site for safekeeping.
During this relocation, the panel now in the possession of MKG was apparently stolen or moved elsewhere, and showed up on the Paris art market in the early 1990s.
Many international museums have objects from Afghanistan that come from the same excavations in Ghazni.