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Asia Week New York 2014:
JonathanTucker-Antonia Tozer
Asian Art

Sandstone Salabanjika
Central India, probably Madhya Pradesh
10th - 11th Century
H. 109 cms, 43 ins

A large, sensuously beautiful red sandstone Salabanjika (arboreal deity), her upper body naked, standing in a pronounced tribhanga on a tiered pedestal with her weight on her right leg and her left foot turned to the side, her face with a smiling tranquil expression, wearing a diaphanous robe and extensive jewellery, her head surmounted by the canopy of a mango tree burgeoning with fruit and filled with monkeys.

Tree deities (salabhanjika or vriksha devata) were a favourite motif of ancient Indian sculptors. Associated with trees, especially the Sal tree (Shorea robusta), they would entwine one of their legs around it or hold one of the branches. This transferred her procreative energy to the tree, enabling it to bloom.

For a related example, identified as an apsara (celestial female), please see cat. no. 46 in P. Pal, The Sensuous Immortals: A Selection of Sculptures from the Pan-Asian Collection, L.A. County Museum of Art, 1977.

Provenance: Private English collection