Enlarge Image

Pratapaditya Pal: Roshan Sabavala’s Tryst with Himalayan Art

  • click on the image to enlarge | click on the Expand icon upper left to enlarge further
    click Esc to close and return to this page

Lot 1: The Holy Family
Black stone
10th or 11th Century
Height 7 ½ in. (19 cm.).

Dr. Pratapaditya Pal, The Arts of Kashmir, New York, 2007, p. 4, fig. 21, illustrated.

Shiva in three-headed form with delicate almond-shaped eyes, is seated in lalitasana on his vahana Nandi, his left arm embracing his consort Parvati, who is seated on his left thigh. They are both adorned with heavy beaded jewellery, and crowned with foliate diadems, each head encircled by a beaded nimbus. In her left hand Parvati holds a water vessel, whilst her raised right hand holds a mirror. Flanking the recumbent Nandi are Ganesha and Kumara who stand in attendance, Ganesha’s trunk curling towards a bowl of sweets that he holds in his raised left hand.

The current lot can be compared with a closely related composition of Uma-Maheshvara, held in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.78.103), published in Dr. Pratapaditya Pal, Indian Sculpture, Los Angeles, 1988, Volume II. In the current example, however, the treatment of the central figures is more refined, and the overall composition considerably more complex, with the addition of the two sons, Ganesha and Skanda Kumara, that flank the central deities. The piece also compares to another version of the Holy Family, in which all four figures are depicted standing, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, dated to the 9th century (1989.362), as well as to a sculpture of Shiva and Parvati attributed to the 11th century, formerly in the Pan-Asian Collection published in Dr. Pratapaditya Pal, The Sensuous Immortals, Boston, 1997, no. 28, pp. 54-5. The tiered pedestal of the Metropolitan Museum’s sculpture compares closely with the current lot.

Positioned at the cultural and geographical crossroads between Afghanistan, North India, West Tibet, and Nepal, Kashmir was firmly established as a political, cultural and commercial centre by the early 4th century AD. Kashmiri bronze and stone sculptures from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions display their own unique style characterised by muscular bodies, serene faces with distinctive almond-shaped eyes, and intricately detailed garments and jewellery. The bronzes are often inlaid with copper, silver and semi-precious stones. The current stone example is testament to the supreme skill of the master craftsman who created it.