Jain Svetambara Tirthankara in Meditation

Period: Solanki period

Date: first half of the 11th century

Culture: India (Gujarat or Rajasthan)

Medium: Marble

Dimensions: H. 39 in. (99 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.131


This superb white marble sculpture represents one of the twenty-four tirthankaras ("crossers of the ford") or jinas ("victorious ones", i.e., conquerors of desire) of the Jain religion. There is very little physical difference between representations of seated Buddhas and those of tirthankaras in Indian art: both are considered enlightened beings and display the markings appropriate for such personages. In addition, however, there are a few marks specific to either Buddhas or tirthankaras. The auspicious srivatsa mark on the chest and the lack of the urna (tuft of hair between the eyes) indicates that our image is a tirthankara.

Representations of Jain figures follow a very conservative iconographic and artistic tradition. Since the inactive, almost nude figure with passive expression does not lend itself to dramatic sculptural interpretation, the burden of aesthetic success rests on the skillful and sensitive rendition and manipulation of simple forms into a well-proportioned, visually pleasing sculptural unity.