Tamil Nadu, India
H. 27 3/8 in. (69.5 cm)
Bequest of Cora Timken Burnett, 1956 (57.51.3)
The metal sculptures of Hindu gods and Buddhist deities cast during the Chola period (ca. 8601279) are among the most widely renowned. The Cholas ruled a large part of South India from their homeland near Thanjavur on the southeastern coast, maintaining diplomatic ties with countries as distant as China and Indonesia. Active patrons, they promoted literature and the performing arts and constructed enormous temple complexes decorated with stone representations of the Hindu gods. Chola-period bronzes were created using the lost-wax technique. Because each sculpture made in this fashion requires a separate wax model, each is unique; because they are religious icons, each conforms to established iconographic conventions.
Here, Parvati is identified by her conical crown with mountainlike (karandamukuta) tiers. She stands in a triple-bend (tribhanga) pose with a pronounced sway and holds one arm and hand down in a dramatic fashion. The other hand is posed in a manner that represents holding a flower. Images of Parvati in this position often accompany Shiva in his role as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), suggesting that this sculpture once may have been placed to the left of an image of the god. She wears luxurious jewelry and a diaphanous skirt secured with a heavy belt, both of which emphasize her sensual volumes. The total effect is perfection, an ideal combination of realistic details and abstract forms.