India (Tamil Nadu)
21 9/16 in (54.9 cm)
Published: Pal 1971, p. 27, no. 17
With his tall crown of matted hair adorned by the crescent moon, Shiva is seated here in ease and comfort, with his right leg pendant on a rectangular base or seat. Because the posture is known as sukhasana, or posture of contentment, the image type is called sukhasanamurti. It is likely that his consort, Uma, or Parvati, once sat on a similar seat on his left. Shiva's lower right arm, as usual, displays the gesture of reassurance. The upper right holds the battleaxe, a weapon of destruction, while in the corresponding left hand is the antelope. Apart from representing animal-kind (pasu) - hence his title Pasupati or Lord of Creatures - the antelope also symbolizes illusion (maya), which is destroyed by the battleaxe. The lower left hand forms the kataka or simhakarna (lion's ear) gesture.
Both the size and
the dignified bearing make this a bronze of commanding presence. Not
only is the figure handsomely proportioned but the modeling still echoes
the simplicity and elegance of the classic Chola-period aesthetic. The
body is not enmeshed in ornaments and allows the viewer to admire the
fluent contours of the form. However, it should be remembered that such
a figure would rarely be seen in a temple in its naked glory. It would
be clothed most of the time, either while resting in a shrine or being
carried during occasional processions and the devotee would catch only
a glimpse of his face.
all text and images © The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore