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An important bronze group of Somaskanda
An important bronze group of Somaskanda


An important bronze group of Somaskanda
South India, Chola period, circa 11th century
The heavenly family seated on separate cushions over a wide waisted plinth, Shiva holding the axe and antelope, dressed in a short dhoti and adorned with the sacred thread, his hair piled in a high jatamukuta with the naga's head and moon on either side, Parvati in a relaxed pose with her right hand raised, dressed in an ankle-length dhoti, her face with serene expression flanked by pendulous earlobes, her hair secured in a tall conical headdress with locks escaping over her shoulders, Skanda standing at center with his knees splayed and holding a lotus blossom in each hand, all three adorned with beaded torques, festooned belts, and shirashchakras
25¼ in. (64.1 cm.) wide
Doris Wiener Gallery, New York, before 1972
H. Munsterberg, Sculpture of the Orient, 1972, p. 24
V. Dehejia, The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India, 2002, p. 131, fig. 16
"The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India", Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., 10 November 2002-9 March 2003, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas, 4 April-15 June, 2003, and Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio, 6 July-14 September 2003

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Lot Essay

Somaskanda stands for "Shiva with Uma and Skanda," the latter figure being their son and who stands between them. This iconography is an important and clearly defined type closely adhered to throughout the Chola period in South India, whereas Umamaheshvara, the depiction of Uma and Shiva with their other son Ganesha, predominates in the north.Along with the lingam, the depiction of Shiva in the context of family was considered the most important image of the deity and was routinely found in the inner sanctum of nearly every South Indian Shaivite temple. In contrast to the abstract lingam, the Somaskanda was the manifestation of the deity, and according to the philosophy of the medieval South Indian Shiva worshippers, the god could only impart grace upon the devotee when in the company of his wife Parvati.

As part of the religious practice of Brahmanical South India, these bronzes would be carried out of the temple sanctum along processional routes so that worshippers not allowed access to the temple might view and be viewed by the deities. As part of this processional practice, a group of five images in particular, the panchamurti, were considered important above all others: the Somaskanda, Uma, Skanda with his two wives, Ganesha, and the saint Chandeshvara. Of the five, the Somaskanda is by far the most important.

The present example is particularly well-executed with elegantly modeled features, and is in an excellent state of preservation, notably with Skanda still present. It was included in Vidhya Dehejia's important exhibition, The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India, catalogue no. 16, which traveled from the Smithsonian Institution to the Dallas Museum of Art and the Cleveland Museum of Art from 2002-03.

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