16 in (40.6 cm)
At first glance, this lotus-bearing goddess may be confused with the Buddhist Tara, but in reality she represents Lakshmi, the principal spouse of Vishnu. The lotus is a common attribute of both, but the distinctive clue to this figures identification with Lakshmi is in her position. Originally, this fragmentary sculpture would have formed the right side of a stele. The central figure in such icons is usually Vishnu, with his mount Garuda on the gods left, balancing Lakshmi on the other side (see Pal 1974, figs. 116-18). This is the common Vaishnava triad seen all over the Kathmandu Valley in temples and roadside shrines. Moreover, Tara is seldom represented in stone steles with her male counterpart, Avalokiteshvara, in this fashion.
Of somewhat stocky proportions, the goddess here looks more like a local woman than an idealized model. She stands with a swinging right hip on a lotus and is appropriately attired and ornamented. With her left hand she grasps the prominently meandering stalk of the lotus, while the right hand, extended in the gesture of charity, delicately holds a gem with the index finger and the thumb. Clearly, she is being portrayed here as the dispenser of wealth that she is.
all text and images © The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore