A Votive Figurine
India (Uttar Pradesh, Mathura)
3rd - 2nd century BC
Gray terracotta, 10 1/8 in (25.8 cm)
Although the piece is upright in the illustration and appears to be a sculpture in the round, the figure cannot stand without a support. In comparison to the elaborate embellishments in front, the back is flat and simple, which indicates that the piece probably rested on its back and served a votive function. It may have been offered flat, explaining the lack of definition of the hands and feet. A large number of such figures have been found in the Mathura region and were evidently buried in pits or thrown into tanks in fertility rites. This may explain their generally good condition.
Made of black clay and covered with a black slip, such terracotta figures were manufactured mostly during the last three centuries before the birth of Christ. Always frontal and upright, they have wide hips, a narrow waist, breasts placed high, a small head, and thin limbs amputated at the wrists and ankles. Here, there is no indication of any garment, and the sexual organ is not articulated, though the navel is deep and large. However, the figure is profusely adorned with simple bangles and anklets, a choker of flowers, large double-doughnut ear ornaments, and an elaborate necklace separately modeled and applied to her torso. Even these adornments are overshadowed by the conspicuous hairdo with pins of lotus-calyx design (or the calyxes themselves) surrounding the head like a ring of dish antennae. This hairdo certainly contributes to the figure's majestic appearance and elegant bearing.
all text and images © The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore