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    Sale 2117

    The Ideal Image Eight Masterpieces Of Indian And Southeast Asian Art

    21 March 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 506

    A highly important granite figure of Venugopala


    Price Realised  


    A highly important granite figure of Venugopala
    South India, late Chola/early Vijayanagar Period, late 13th/early 14th century
    Superbly carved in the round with Krishna holding the flute to his lips, his legs elegantly crossed in graceful outline, wearing a short dhoti tied with an elaborate sash, intricate necklaces and armlets, the 'sacred thread' encircling his body, his hair arranged in a high topknot adorned with peacock feathers, the stone with a smooth polish
    47 in. (119.4 cm.) high

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    One of the most alluring images in Indian art is that of Krishna the flautist standing with his legs crossed at the ankles and playing the flute. Derived from the bamboo flute (venu) commonly played by shepards while tending their flock, Krishna has a flute that doubles as his staff. He plays to charm the cowherding gopis. The image appears relatively late in Indian literature and art and was possibly influenced by the classical myth of Orpheus. The subject has spurred the imagination of poets and artists alike who have created images of extraordinary retoric and visual richness.
    Venugopala is carved in the round with the greatest of virtuosity and sense of grace, belying the hardness and weight of the material. It is of outstanding refinement and is without doubt one of the finest South Indian stone sculptures of its type.
    Chola and Vijayanagar period sculpture is more commonly carved against a backplate; compare with a stele of Venugopala from the Avery Brundage Collection at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco, of considerably later date and with only the upper torso carved in openwork, see P. Pal (ed.), Dancing to the Flute, Music and Dance in Indian Art, fig. 36a, p. 86f.


    Peter Marks Gallery, New York, 1969

    Pre-Lot Text

    The Magic Flute
    The cowherding Gopis nurtured tender feelings for Krishna. As the flutist Venugopala, Krishna evokes the dance of love, Rasalila. He plays on his flute and the beauty of its mesmerizing sound lures the enamored Gopis to rush and be with him. Krishna uses his heavenly powers to multiply himself and as they link arms and dance in a circle in the moonshine of an autumn night, each gopi feels that she alone is the focus of his attention.

    Methaphorically, he is the supreme being, the great soul, into which the individual soul represented by the gopis, will merge, drawn by the enchanting magic of his flute. He is the great ocean into which all rivers must lose their identity.

    Property from the Alice M. Kaplan Collection


    Asia House Gallery, Masterpieces of Asian Art in American Collections II, 1970, p. 48f.
    L. Bantel, The Alice M. Kaplan Collection, 1981, cat. no. 6, p. 24f.


    Peter Marks Gallery, Tenth Anniversary: Ten Selected Works, Winter 1970
    Asia House Gallery, Masterpieces of Asian Art in American Collections II, 16 April - 7 June 1970, p. 48-49, cat. no. 13.