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A large and important bronze figure of Parvati
A large and important bronze figure of Parvati


A large and important bronze figure of Parvati
South India, Chola period, circa 1100
Standing in elegant tribhanga on a lotus over a stepped base with her right hand raised in katakamudra, wearing an intricately patterned dhoti with the end swinging between her legs, a beaded belt with looped tassels, adorned with multiple necklaces, armbands and a suvarnavaikakshaka that encircles her torso, her hair bound by a low crown centered with a matching foliate motif on her upper arm bands, with locks covering the back of her neck and a few adorned by lotus buds draped across her shoulders, her face with a gentle smile
33 1/8 in. (84.2 cm.) high
Collection of Ariane Dandois, London, acquired in Geneva, 16 March 1977
C. Vogel, "Global Treasure Trove," New York Times Magazine, 1 March 1987, pp. 62-66

Lot Essay

The great festival bronzes of South India reached a period of efflorescence during the Chola dynasty (9th - 13th centuries), known as the Golden Age of Tamil art. As part of Brahmanical ritual practice in South India, having been properly consecrated, bathed, dressed, and elaborately adorned, portable bronzes were carried out of the temple and into the city streets for all to see and be seen by the gods and to engage in darshan, the mutually empowering exchange of gazes between humans and the divine. Although their adornments would cover all but their faces, Chola bronzes were cast with attention to the greatest level of detail. Figural forms display an idealized naturalism simultaneously blissful and restrained, the bodies graced with gently rippling garments and finely rendered jewelry that express the beauty within.

The expert craftsmen of the Chola period produced figures of the goddess Parvati that are among the most sensuous images in the corpus of Indian art. With a curvaceous figure and wearing the ornaments of a queen, the goddess is the embodiment of the ideals of Indian beauty. In Tamil poetry of the bhakti saints, Parvati's exquisite beauty is espoused through metaphors of the beauties found in nature: her thighs are tapered like the plantain tree, her waist is a slender creeper, her breasts are golden vessels filled with the nectar of the gods, and her gait expressed through the elegant tribhanga pose in which she stands mocks that of the peacock.

Unusual and especially beautiful details include the goddess' long dhoti with its pattern of circular and triangular motifs. Similar patterns seen in earlier works, for example that of the Cleveland Uma, in which the dhoti of the Uma dated circa 950 is decorated with bands of circles, perhaps stylized lotuses in cross-section, alternating with bands of undulating vine motifs (see V. Dehejia, IThe Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India, 2002, p. 123, fig. 12). A figure of Sita dated slightly later to circa 980 shares the bands of circles in her dhoti, this time alternating with bands of triangular motifs (see V. Dehejia, 2002, p. 191, fig. 47). The sculptor of the present example has combined all three of these motifs into this Parvati's garment. All three of these examples also show a similarly draped figure, with the pleat between the legs caught in mid-swing, as if the goddess has just taken a step back into tribhanga

Compare the present example with a seated figure of Uma in a Somaskanda group from the Collection of Doris Wiener (see V. Dehejia, 2002, p. 131, fig. 16 and sold at Christie's New York, 20 March 2012, lot 60), which has similar proportions, especially the shoulders, extended arm, upper torso and nipped waist leading into swelling hips. Both figures also wear similar jewlery: compare the base of the crown resting on the forehead and the proportion of the cone to the face, the necklaces and the suvarnavaikakshaka (harness decorating the torso). The similarities in modeling of the torso and thighs, the canon of proportions, and elements of adornment between the two support a circa 1100 date for the figure of Parvati.

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