Manuscript Cover with Vishnu Flanked by Lakshmi and Sarasvati

Date: 14th century

Culture: Nepal (Kathmandu Valley)

Medium: Distemper on wood

Dimensions: Overall: 1 7/8 x 13 1/16 in. (4.7 x 33.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Richard and Peggy Danziger, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.494.2


This cover depicts a standing four-armed Vishnu mounted on Garuda, his half-man, half-bird vehicle. Vishnu is flanked on the right by his wife Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, and on the left by Sarasvati, the goddess of learning and wisdom, who sometimes appears as Vishnu's consort. Three of Vishnu's four hands hold his usual martial attributes, which he uses when he aids devotees in need: the discus, club, and conch shell (used to call troops). His fourth hand makes the gesture of teaching (dharmachakramudra). Lakshmi can be identified by the vase and lotus she holds. The four-armed Sarasvati can be identified by the rosary and book she holds in her upper hands and by the musical instrument she cradles in her lower hands. The deities' round faces and pronounced chins as well as the tone-on-tone scrolling vines between each deity are stylistically typically Nepalese.