Netherlands to Return 478 Looted Objects, Including Several from Rijksmuseum Collection

A total of 478 looted treasures are slated to be returned by the Dutch government to Indonesia and Sri Lanka, reported the Art Newspaper. Six of the objects, coming from the Rijksmuseum, mark the institution’s first repatriation of colonial artifacts.

Gunay Uslu, the Dutch Secretary of State for Culture and Media, decided to repatriate the objects following multiple requests from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. The repatriated items include 335 artifacts that comprise the “Lombok treasure”, a collection of modern art from Bali, the Pita Maha collection, and the 18th century Cannon of Kandy that may have been used in ceremonies to welcome royal visitors.

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While many of the artifacts will come from the holdings of the National Museum of World Cultures, six Sri Lankan objects are currently held by the Rijksmuseum. Since conducting provenance research in 2017, this is the Rijksmuseum’s first repatriation of colonial artifacts.

“We appreciate the Secretary of State’s decision and regard this restitution as a positive step in cooperation with Sri Lanka. The relationship and exchanges of knowledge built up between the two nations in the fields of research and common history constitute a strong foundation for the future,” Taco Dibbits, General Director of the Rijksmuseum, said in a statement.

Following a 2020 report from the Dutch Council for Culture, it was suggested that the country should return artifacts taken under its colonial authority or provide financial compensation.

There will be a ceremonial handover on July 10 of the artifacts to the National Museum of Indonesia in Jakarta at the Museum Volkenkunde Leiden.

This effort is part of a larger movement of repatriation to return objects taken during colonial rule such as the Benin Bronzes.


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