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Temple strut (tunala) depicting a tree deity (yaskshi)

13th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Carved roof strut from the Sulima Ratnesvara temple
    Temple strut (tunala) depicting a celestial female (yaskshi)
    Places where the work was made
    Sulima Square Patan Kathmandu Valley Nepal
    Patan Kathmandu Valley Nepal
    13th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    wood, traces of pigment
    130.5 x 18.8 x 19.5 cm object with stand :

    a - wooden object, 128 x 16.5 x 8.4 cm

    b - metal stand, 13.1 x 1.9 x 2 cm

    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Bequest of Alex Biancardi 2000
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    This large wooden temple strut is carved with a distinctively stylised and elongated figure of a tree deity or 'shalabhanjika', also popular in Hindu and Buddhist India. This celestial woman stands with one leg crossed over the other, in a relaxed 'tribhanga' or triple-bend pose. Her proper right hand extends above to grasp hold of a tree branch. Her left hand is in 'vitarka mudra', with the index finger and thumb touching. She stands on the head of a squatting dwarf or 'gana', depicted in a stylised rocky landscape setting.

    The long, slim, sinuous body of this tree goddess is adorned with armlets and bracelets, necklaces and a tasselled hip-belt, worn as a symbol of fertility, and she is accompanied by a parrot, a symbol of love. Above her head is the lush, vigorous foliage of a flourishing tree. The 'gana' figure beneath is rendered in angular lines, contrasting with the swaying, curvaceous figure of the woman. With bearded face and strong body, he is shown squatting with one hand extended to the floor and the other resting on his knee.

    Asian Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2000

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Walking with gods, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Jun 2019–05 Jan 2020

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 3 publications

    • Pratapaditya Pal, Orientations, 'Sensuous Spirituality: Hindu and Buddhist Art from the Indic Cultural Realm', pg. 80-87, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 87 (illus.). fig.12

    • Mary Shepherd Slusser, Artibus Asiae, 'Indreshvara Mahadeva, a Thirteenth-Century Nepalese Shrine', pp.185-225, United States of America, 1979, 212 ( illus.). fig.41

    • Mary Shepherd Slusser, The antiquity of Nepalese wood carving. A reassessment, Seattle, 2010, 79, 82 (illus.). fig 71

  • Provenance

    Ratneshwar temple, 1969-1975, Sulima Square/Patan/Kathmandu Valley/Nepal, published in Mary Shepherd Slusser, 'Indreshvara Mahadeva, a Thirteenth-Century Nepalese Shrine', Artibus Asiae, United States of America, 1979, 41, 2/ 3 pp.185-225, fig 41. Photograph was taken by the author in 1969. Removed from Ratneshwar temple in 1975.

    Alex Biancardi, pre Nov 1998, Australia

    Estate of Alex Biancardi, Nov 1998-Feb 2000, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, bequeathed to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Feb 2000.