Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. In line with decisions made by the National Cabinet as communicated by the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Gallery is observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of all visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), including timed-entry tickets. More information




Asian art

View More:


The subtle body and cosmic man

19th century


Unknown Artist


This preparatory drawing is a splendid example of the full cosmic man who represents the planes of existence from the three realms of the netherworld (or unconscious), through this world of the body-cosmos represented by the subtle body, to the realm of the heavens which comprises successive stages of higher consciousness shown as secret celestial upper ‘chakras’, accessed beyond the seventh Sahasrara Chakra. Reading from the bottom: there is a multi-armed, multi-headed figure of Shiva seated on a lotus held aloft by a monkey balancing on two discs, similar to the red sun and white moon orbs in cat. 111 opposite. Above this grouping is Vishnu lying in the Endless Ocean prior to Creation; he is accompanied by his consort Lakshmi and an attendant. Above them appears the boar incarnation of Vishnu, Varaha, holding aloft the Earth Goddess, Prithivi, whom he has just rescued from the nether regions. Above them, standing on a snake, is the subtle body of a ‘yogin’, each of whose ‘chakras’ contains either a single figure or a couple within a multi-petalled circle.

The script at different points on the drawing indicates the name of the ‘chakra’, and the colours to be used.

Jackie Menzies, ‘Goddess: divine energy’. pg.178
© 2006 Art Gallery of New South Wales


Other Title

Illustration of the esoteric body of Hindu tantrism

Place where the work was made



19th century

Media category


Materials used

ink and slight colour on paper


240.0 x 50.0 cm (irreg.)


Purchased 2003


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Madhu Khanna, Goddess: Divine Energy, 'Devi Kundalini: the narrative of the subtle body', pg. 173-176, Sydney, 2006, 178 (2 colour illus.). The image on the right is a detail of this work.