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Yoga: The Art of Transformation

Vishnu Vishvarupa
approx. 1800–1820
India; Rajasthan state, former kingdom of Jaipur
Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Given by Mrs. Gerald Clark, IS 33–2006.

The Hindu deity Vishnu’s sun-and-moon eyes and fire-blazing mouth are among the Bhagavad Gita’s descriptions of Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu in his infinite cosmic form (Vishvarupa). This small but powerful painting depicts the universe as Vishnu standing upon the multi-headed serpent Shesha and holding in his four hands a discus, conch, lotus, and mace. Various deities cluster in Vishnu’s upper torso, the phenomenal worlds appear as target-like circles at his waist, and the seven netherworlds constitute his legs.