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Jonathan Tucker & Antonia Tozer

Sandstone Sarasvati Relief
Vietnam, Cham Period
11th-12th c. (Thap Mam Style)
H. 58 cm, 23 ins

A sandstone relief with a depiction of a female deity, probably Sarasvati, smiling serenely and seated within an arched niche holding a lotus stem in each hand, her sampot with three folds at the waist and a turned over central flap; adorned with a heavy necklace and earrings and wearing an intricate diadem.

Sarasvati, wife of Brahma and goddess of art and science is usually depicted in Cham sculpture dancing or seated with a lotus in each hand- see plates 76 and 176 in Cao Xuan Pho, Cham Sculpture Album, Hanoi: Social Sciences Publishing House, 1988. There is also normally a hamsa (royal goose) at her feet, the absence of which means that the identification of this sculpture as Sarasvati can be no more than tentative. For a similar figure of a seated female from Thap Mam, identified as Lakshmi, see plate 172, ibid. See also fig. 167 in J. Boisselier, La Statuaire du Champa: Recherches sur les cultes et l’iconographie, Paris: École Française d’Extrême-Orient, 1963.

Works of art in the Thap Mam style are found almost exclusively in Bin Dinh province, close to the town of Quy Nhon. The sculpture of Thap Mam (“the ruined tower”) is influenced by Khmer art of the Angkor Wat and Bayon periods and is both Hindu and Buddhist.

Private English collection.

all text, images © Jonathan Tucker and Antonia Tozer


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