Northern India, Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh
c. 11th century
Copper alloy with Silver inlay
6 3/8 in. (16.2 cm.)
Sotheby’s NY, March 24, 2011, Lot 18
Harry & Yvonne Lenart Collection, Los Angeles, 1960’s – 2011
“The Divine Presence: Asian Sculptures from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lenart”, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, August 15 – October 15, 1978
Pal, Pratapaditya, The Divine Presence, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1978, p. 26, pl. 13
In this rare form of Uma-Maheshvara, Shiva is seated in a yogic posture on a lotus, his principal hands holding a waterpot with leaves. His upper right hand grasps a rosary and the left supports Uma, who is gracefully seated on his thigh. Uma too holds a waterpot with her right hand, and in her left a lotus. This rare image is Kumbhesvara, lord of the waterpot. This rare bronze is one of the few known images of Uma-Maheshvara from either Kashmir or Himachal Pradesh. According to Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy, Shiva’s infinite power remains concealed until he is in the company of his consort Uma (Sa Uma). In her presence he reveals his benevolence and through her his grace is comprehended. Images of Shiva together with Uma are known as Umasahitamurti and with the addition of their infant Skanda the image becomes Somaskandamurti. Since Shiva was believed to confer his blessings upon devotees most readily in this form it was imperative for every temple to have a Somaskandamurti and this iconographic representation was extremely popular. An early iconographic representation of this form of Shiva is a charming stone relief of circa 7th century date, from the Pallava period, now in the collection of the National Museum, New Delhi (S. Kramrisch, Manifestations of Shiva, Philadelphia, 1981, cat. 55, p. 67). In this tender family portrait we see the divine couple seated in a relaxed posture upon a plinth, with the infant Skanda on his mother Uma’s lap.
The iconography was conventionalized in bronze images such as the magnificent 8th century sculpture in the collection of the Government Museum, Madras (K. Khandalavala (ed.), Indian Bronze Masterpieces, New Delhi 1988, fig. 4, p. 145) where Shiva and Uma are seated upon a tiered plinth or bhadrapeedam. From an artistic and iconographic standpoint this arresting sculpture embodies the essential qualities of Shiva and Uma. Their union is a symbol of completeness and unity, “…like a word and its meaning.” (S. Kramrisch, Manifestations of Shiva, Philadelphia, 1981, xviii) Shiva’s expansive, powerful chest seems to be inflated with breath. His face with its prominent features radiates a calm divinity. His mismatched earrings symbolize the incorporation of both male and female energies into a single Godhead. The sculpture radiates not only Shiva’s beauty but also his majesty and strength as the immutable Omniscient Being who generates the eternal cycles of creation and destruction. Uma’s lithe, supple form is an embodiment of beauty and perfection while her gently smiling face emanates spiritual and aesthetic joy. Her body is turned slightly inwards to face her lord Shiva, cementing their union and binding them together in an everlasting image of power, majesty, benevolence and transcendence.