Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is known as the giver of counsel and remover of obstacles for humans and deities alike. Although his elephant-headed form lends a playful quality, Ganesha's significance is profound. As overseer of the relationship between past, present, and future, Ganesha maintains balance in the universe. He is typically worshipped at the beginning of rituals.
According to legend, Ganesha took on his elephant-headed form when he was a little boy. While Shiva was out, Parvati wanted to bathe but had no one to guard the door. She fashioned a little boy with her hands and instructed him to mind the entry to the bathing area and not permit anyone inside. When Shiva returned home and found an unknown boy refusing him entry, the angered god cut off the boy’s head without asking further questions. Emerging from her bath, Parvati was dismayed to see what had transpired. She commanded Shiva to revive the son she had created by appending the head of the first being who walked by. When an elephant soon passed, Shiva removed its head and attached it to the body of the boy, thus bringing him back to life as the elephant-headed deity known as Ganesha.
Known in India for his youthful cleverness and predilection for prank, Ganesha is frequently depicted dancing or standing in tribhanga (see an example from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, sold in these rooms on 22 March 2011, lot 42). In contrast, the Indonesian Ganesha is often portrayed seated with the soles of his feet touching, emphasizing his wisdom and benevolence. The present work depicts the elephant-headed god seated on a double-lotus throne, his robust frame and bulging stomach a symbol of abundance. His sensitively carved eyes and finely rendered trunk, which gently reaches into a bowl of sweets, imbue him with a sense of approachable serenity. Like his father, he holds a rosary and battle-axe in his upper hands and wears a sacred thread across his torso. His elaborate diadem is centered with a single skull resting on a crescent moon, another reminder of his ascetic heritage. Compare with a similar Indonesian work from the collection of James and Marilyn Alsdorf (P. Pal, A Collecting Odyssey: Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Art from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 1997, p. 53, cat. no. 58-59).