Rendered in polished marble, this attendant figure holds a flywhisk known as a chauri, an accessory held by an attendant yaksha, who likely would have accompanied a central Jina figure. The chauri is flung over his shoulders, drawing attention towards his oval nimbus. The combination of this divine attribute with the figure’s sensuous modeling and precise delineation of ornamentation gives him a presence that is both visually and spiritually engaging. The efflorescent marble, a material appreciated across cultures for its translucence and ability to be carved in detail, further imbues the figure with otherworldliness and elegance.
The v-shaped torso under broad shoulders, as well as the incised arched eyebrows and oval outline of the face, are common features found in other representations of male attendants from this time and period. For a closely related example, see the small flywhisk-bearers flanking the Jina Ajitanatha in the Norton Simon Museum (see P. Pal, et al., The Peaceful Liberators: Jain Art from India, Los Angeles, 1994, p. 31 and fig. 21, p. 145 and cat. no. 32). These figures, similar in pose to the present example and also adorned with conical crowns and circular necklaces, represent a typical depiction of attendants positioned alongside a central Jina figure.
Not only do the unusual freestanding nature of the present figure and his prominent nimbus elevate him from common representation, his presence as the only Indian marble sculpture in the Ellsworth Collection makes him unique. This chauri bearer continued to tend to Mr. Ellsworth from his hallway position on the threshold between the front of the apartment and the private quarters, a most suitable location for such an attentive presence.