This heroic representation of Vishnu, with its sensuously modeled and powerful build, is an exceptionally rare example of the finest Newari artistry of early medieval Nepal..."
This heroic representation of Vishnu, with its sensuously modeled and powerful build, is an exceptionally rare example of the finest Newari artistry of early medieval Nepal. During the Thakuri period (879–1200, often termed the "Transitional period"), the emerging Newari predisposition for elaborate mercury gilding and encrustation with semi-precious stones served to enhance the grandeur of such devotional icons for the first time.
This four-armed Vishnu stands upon a rectangular plinth, surmounted by a flaming nimbus with pearl motif, wearing an elaborate crown with lion and pearls as central motif. In his upper hands, he displays a mace (gada) and flaming discus (chakra) and, in his lower hands, a conch shell (war trumpet) and a flower bud. Stylistically, Newari bronze casting followed the aesthetic and technical evolution of northern Indian Gupta and Pala sculpture traditions. However, the facial and body physiognomy has a distinctive mode, specific to Newari ateliers—a slight widening in the eyes and face, the conjoined arc of the eyebrows and curvature of the nose, a graceful posture.
Along the front elevation of the integral rectangular plinth are three kneeling donor figures, a nobleman, his wife and child, flanking an auspicious overflowing vase of plenty (purnaghata), with flower and food offerings arranged before them. The donor's inscription extends over both the left and right sides of the plinth, and names both the donor, a minister of state, and his king, Simhadeva, and the day, month, and year of dedication, Sunday the 12th day of August. This coincides precisely with Vishnu's awakening after his annual four-month slumber, marking the end of the monsoon, a highly auspicious day to make a religious donation. The icon was offered on this day to a now unknown temple in the Kathmandu valley. In keeping with its noble associations, this object was gifted shortly before 1965 by the king of Nepal H.M. Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah to the Canadian ambassador to India and Nepal, Chester Ronning.
Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia
Department of Asian Art