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Marcel Nies

8. Shiva Chandrashekhara
India, Tamil Nadu, Vijayanagar
16th century
Bronze, cast in the lost wax method
Height: 45cm
Shiva Chandrashekhara

Shiva in his present manifestation expresses the quality of rajas, the basis for the active principle in creation. ‘Chandrashekhara’ literally means to have the moon (chandra) as a head ornament (shekhara), and in this sculpture the crescent moon decorates the left-hand side of Shiva’s high-piled jatamukuta, a headdress being made up of two sets of feathers set fan-wise into his elaborate crown. It includes a small head of the goddess Ganga, an arrangement of swirling jatas and a little image of Ganga clasping her hands in adoration.

Shiva is seated in lalitasana, the posture of royal ease on a circular lotus throne mounted on a rectangular base. His third eye is a symbol of higher consciousness and is depicted between his two open eyes. He raises his right hand in abhayamudra, the ‘fear not’ gesture, and his left in varadamudra symbolizing dispensing of boons. The remaining hands hold an axe and a leaping deer, which derive from his former manifestation as Rudra, the hunter. The sense of restrained power in his chest and shoulders is reinforced by his narrow waist and the udarabhanda he wears around it. Set in his left ear is the patrakundala or circular earring, indicative of his affable nature. Other adornments include a number of necklaces, the sacred thread, a girdle, loops of ribbon at the hips, armbands, bracelets, finger rings and anklets.

South Indian bronzes have long been regarded as one of the great achievements of the metalworker’s art. Characteristic for the style of Vijayanagar is the detailed casting of every element, each exquisitely rendered. This relatively large and graceful sculpture represents Shiva as an important god, conforming to distinguished systems of classic proportions. With his abstract tubular limbs, heart- shaped face, and melodic gestures, the god is pervaded with a mystic gravity of spirit. Noteworthy are the convincing balance from whichever angle he is viewed, and the lively face, expressing extraordinary serenity.

Collection M. Rinaldi, Fossano (CN) Italy.

A. Neven, Beeldhouwkunst uit Indie, Brussels, 1978, pp. 171–191, fig. 115.
O. C. Gangoly, South Indian Bronzes, Calcutta, 1978, Pl. 35.
J. Van Alphen, Cast For Eternity, Bronze Masterworks from India and the Himalayas in Belgian and Dutch Collections, Ethnographic Museum, Antwerp, 2005, pp. 66–67, fig. 12.

all text, images © Marcel Nies
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