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Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

FEMALE TORSO
India (Kushan), 2nd century
Height: 35.5 cm
Width: 25.5 cm
Depth: 8 cm

A voluptuous female torso, representing the Indian ideal of feminine beauty. She is possibly a yakshi, carved in mottled red sandstone, standing in a slight S-curve (tribhanga) with her left hand on her hip and clutching a scarf in her right, wearing a dhoti secured with a belt fastened by a large, decorative buckle, and adorned with numerous items of jewellery.

She wears intertwined bracelets on her arms, with the one on her left wrist finishing to the bottom in a larger collar, which could possibly be suggesting a fold of flesh pushed out by the tightly secured bracelet. This can be seen in a similar example in Pratapaditya Pal, Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, Volume 1: Art from the Indian Subcontinent, 2003, p. 87, cat. no. 50. She wears a decorative armlet and a wide necklace with a beaded design within several borders. The remains of an earring are just visible, with a tassel of pearls hanging down onto her right shoulder.

Apart from the decorative elements, her sensuous upper torso is exposed, showing her particularly voluminous breasts as they are slightly squeezed between her upper arms. Her left hand is clasped and falls down to her waist, whilst her right is raised high, holding a large shawl close to her body. Below, she wears a dhoti secured by a large belt with cusped sections to either side, decorated with beaded borders and hatched central fields. The style of the belt can also be seen on a figure published in Stanislaw J. Czuma, Kushan Sculpture: Images from Early India, 1985, p. 93, fig. 30. Her modesty is protected by the large sash from her belt that falls down to the front. This is quite unusual for Kushan period female figures, as normally this area is exposed.(1)

Yakshis are nature spirits and symbols of fertility, and the depiction of them reflect notions of abundance and fruitfulness. This figure could possibly have been part of a stupa railing where originally she would have stood upon a dwarf-like figure, and greeted individual worshippers as they entered.(2)


Provenance:
Spink and Son, London, acquired 1979
J. Welles Henderson Collection

References:
1. Pratapadtya Pal, Indian Sculpture Volume 1: A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection, 1986, p.193.
2. Ibid., p. 86, cat. no. 49.

all text & images Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

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