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Bowrings claim that as they do not own the objects they are selling and are merely acting as agents, the licence is unnecessary.

A Bowrings spokesman said the company would remain “dormant” during the court proceedings, which are expected to last “quite some considerable time”. Sales have now ceased and the firm’s offices in Mumbai, Calcutta and Bangalore have closed. The New Delhi office will remain open, albeit at a reduced capacity.

Bowrings was founded in April 2001 by Christopher Elwes, former managing director of Bonhams, and Indian art expert Patrick Bowring.