Harvard museum gets Chinese jade artwork back, 35 years after theft

BOSTON (REUTERS) - A Chinese jade incense burner, stolen 35 years ago from a Harvard University art museum, was returned to the Ivy League university by law enforcement officials on Tuesday.

The censer, dating from the Qing Dynasty, was on display at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when it disappeared on Nov 26, 1979.

Thirty years later, it surfaced again in Hong Kong when a private seller hand delivered it to auction house Sotheby's but was not able to provide any documentation about the art work's ownership.

When Sotheby's searched the Art Loss Register database in 2009, the 16.5cm-tall green piece was identified as the one missing from Harvard's collection.

The United States (US) Justice Department last year granted the university's request to have the piece returned and it was handed over on Tuesday.

But the public will not be able to see the piece, donated to the school by Ernest B. Dane, who graduated from Harvard College in 1892, for months, until a renovation of the museum located just outside Boston is completed later this year.

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