India (Uttar Pradesh, Mathura)
Spotted red sandstone
22 5/8 in (57.5 cm)
Published: Pal 1971, p. 21, no. 1
Despite its fragmentary condition, the figure's divine nature is confirmed by her frontal and hieratic posture and the attribute in her left hand. The mottled stone and the style are typical of the Kushan-period (ca. 75 - 225) sculptures of Mathura. She would have stood originally in a shrine, either structural or hypaethral (open to the sky), and received homage from devotees. Most deities at this period were represented without additional limbs, depending on their larger-than-life proportions and sheer physical presence to convey their divinity. The circular object the goddess holds with her left hand is very likely a small water pot, which appears to have been a ubiquitous emblem of divinities n Mathura at this time. A precise identification, however, is not possible. She may represent a goddess (devi) or a yakshi, a nature deity that enjoyed great popularity in both rural and urban communities before the appearance of more cosmic divinities.
The plastic qualities of the statue indicate that she was a goddess of abundance and prosperity. Her all-assertive, swelling form with its luxuriant curves exudes plenitude. Characteristic of Kushan-period art of Mathura, the figure is monumental and informed with both robust vitality and overt sensuality. The fluent contours, the discreet volumes of her diagonally placed scarf, and the diaphanous garment hugging her shapely, swelling thigh accentuate the organic abundance of her physical form. This goddess is still natural and earthbound, an Amazonian presence. She is freestanding and could be circumambulated; this was an essential feature of cult images of the Kushan period at Mathura. Although the anatomical details are less articulated than in contemporary Gandharan sculpture, the figural forms in Mathura have a spontaneous and easy naturalism that is particularly pleasing.
all text and images © The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore