Most likely the torso of a celestial woman or 'surasundari', this sculpture embodies the Indian ideals of feminine beauty: full, spherical breasts set close, narrow wasp-like waist, ample hips and elaborate jewellery that accentuates the soft tactility of the flesh. This kind of representation of the feminine was included in the iconographic program of the Hindu temple in order to improve its power.
The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.22.
Founded early in the ninth century, the Chandella dynasty, one of thirty-six Rajput clans, was a major regional power by the tenth century. This female figure undoubtedly was part of the luxurious surface decoration typical of the external walls of Chandella religious monuments. The figure may be a 'yakshi', a female nature spirit whose erotic, sensual forms, charged with suggestions of fertility, were lovingly carved by medieval Indian sculptors.
Excerpt from Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 289.
This sculpture exemplifies the Indian ideals of feminine beauty: tall and slender forms, with narrow waists, curvaceous hips and full rounded breasts. Draped in scanty, diaphanous drapery, decked in opulent jewellery, and striking a seductively languid pose, the figure exudes sensuality and is the epitome of sumptuousness and grace. Conveying the age-old ideas of fertility, abundance and auspiciousness, such female figures would have once adorned the walls of Hindu temples built under the aegis of the Chandella dynasty. The Chandellas are particularly known for their temple-building tradition and for commissioning monumental structures with luxurious surface decoration, such as those at Khajuraho. Traditional architecture manuals endorse the carving of female imagery on temple structures. The Shilpa Prakasha (Light on Art), of about the eleventh century, states: ‘As a house without a wife, as frolic without a woman, so, without the figure of woman the monument will be inferior of quality and bear no fruit’ (quoted in Dehejia 1999: 164). Female figures rendered religious monuments efficacious and prosperous. This figure is charged with movement, vitality and sensuous warmth. She twists in space as she stretches dreamily. The small attendant by her side gazes up and plays with the end of the billowing scarf. The dynamic, exaggerated pose suggests that this sculpture was meant to be viewed from below and, therefore, would have been positioned high on the temple wall.
Chaya Chandrasekhar, ‘Goddess: divine energy’, pg.25.
© 2006 Art Gallery of New South Wales
Ewen McDonald (Australia) (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, Sydney, 1994, 178 (colour illus.).
Margaret Olley Art Trust circa 1994, circa 1994, colour illus..
Bruce James (Australia) (Author), Edmund Capon (England; Australia, b.1940) (Director), Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Domain, 1999, 289 (colour illus.).
'Sensuous Spirituality: Hindu and Buddhist Art from the Indic Cultural Realm' by Pratapaditya Pal, pg. 80-87., Orientations Sep 2000, Sep 2000, 85 (colour illus.). fig.10
'The Realm of the Hindu Gods', The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales 2003, 2003, 22 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Australia) (Editor), Goddess: Divine Energy, Sydney, 2006, 24 (colour illus.). cat. no. 9
Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994.