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A BRONZE FIGURE OF YOGA NARASIMHA
A BRONZE FIGURE OF YOGA NARASIMHA
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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE NEW YORK CITY COLLECTION
A BRONZE FIGURE OF YOGA NARASIMHA

SOUTH INDIA, TAMIL NADU, VIJAYANAGARA PERIOD, 14TH-15TH CENTURY

Details
A BRONZE FIGURE OF YOGA NARASIMHA
SOUTH INDIA, TAMIL NADU, VIJAYANAGARA PERIOD, 14TH-15TH CENTURY
10 ½ in. (26.7 cm.) high
Provenance
Spink & Son, Ltd., London, 1991

Lot Essay

This ferocious incarnation of Vishnu, half-man and half-lion, was manifest to overcome the asura or demi-god Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu sought to avenge his brother, who was defeated by Varaha, Vishnu's boar-headed incarnation. He realized it was not wise to attack Vishnu without protection from the gods, and performing great austerities to gain a boon from Brahma. Hiranyakashipu requested a boon from Brahma rendering him unable to be slain by day or night, by weapons or missiles, either inside or outside, nor by man or beast. With this boon granted, Hiranyakashipu attacked the gods until Vishnu reappeared as Narasimha, the man-lion, and eviscerated the king with his fearsome claws at the twilight hour on the threshold of the palace, thus circumventing all conditions of the demon king's boon. One of the most iconic representations of this fierce avatar of Vishnu is a monolithic stone sculpture depicting Yoga Narasimha, which stands today at the ancient center of the Vijayanagara empire in the medieval city of Hampi Vijayanagar.

The powerful and sensuously modeled Yoga Narasimha is depicted here in a contemplative posture, sitting cross-legged on a lotus throne, the primary arms resting languidly on the knees with claws exposed. His mouth is agape, fangs bared but with gentle expression. Sharp, perky ears peek out from a majestic mane. He wears a short and diaphanous dhoti with a yogapatta or meditation band fastened around his knees and holds the attributes of Vishnu: the flaming chakra or discus in the raised right hand, and a flaming shankha or conch in the raised left hand. The round, broad shoulders taper to a narrow waist, the torso ornamented with necklaces and a yajnopavitam or sacred thread. Narasimha is further ornamented with bracelets, rings, anklets and toe rings. The elegant triangular leaves on the of the headdress mirror the decorative elements of the armlets, visible at the front and back above the shirashchakra or haloed crown attached at the back of the head, a convention of South Indian sculpture.

The tiered rectangular base with incised geometric patterning and incised lotus petals at the lower tier is frequently seen in mid-to-late Vijayanagara-period sculpture. Compare the incised tiered base on the current work with a similarly incised base on a fourteenth century bronze sculpture of a female deity at the Brooklyn Museum (acc. no. 86.227.26), and also with the similarly incised base on a Cosmic Form of Krishna from the fifteenth century at the Norton Simon Museum (acc. no. F.1972.19.7.S).

Also compare the tall, conical kiritamukuta with lotus bud finial with a similar chignon cover on an earlier thirteenth century bronze figure of Bhu-Varaha from the Victoria & Albert Museum (acc. no. IM6-1924), illustrated by V. Dehejia, The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India, New York, 2003, p. 184.

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