Krishna's Foster–Mother Yashoda with the Infant Krishna, Chola period, early 12th century
India (Tamil Nadu)
Copper alloy; H. 13 1/8 in. (33.3 cm)
Purchase, Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, in honor of Cynthia Polsky and Leon Bernard Polsky, 1982 (1982.220.8)
In the repertoire of South Indian processional bronzes cast in the Chola period, the least represented subject is the young foster-mother Yashoda nursing the infant Krishna. According to legend, the baby Krishna was secreted away from the murderous King Kamsa of Mathura to be raised in safety by foster parents. This image of unselfconscious tenderness and maternal bliss forecasts Krishna's role as the most human of the gods. Having been raised as if a mortal, he embarks on a series of heroic tasks in the pursuit of justice and order in which he periodically reveals his divine powers to the wonderment of his devotees.
The sophisticated modeling, casting, and tooling of this sculpture find parallels only in the best Chola bronzes of the eleventh and twelfth centuries from southern India. This image, with its sparse ornamentation and full-fleshed faces and bodies, can be assigned to the early twelfth century alongside a number of superb metal icons produced in the Pudukkottai and Tanjavur districts of Tamil Nadu.