Detail View: The AMICA Library: Vishnu

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: 
South Indian
Creator Name-CRT: 
South Indian
Full view
Creation Date: 
Pallava period, 8th century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Copper alloy
Creation Place: 
India, Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu
H. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Most of the sculptures and monuments of south India dating from the 7th through 9th centuries are associated with the two most important dynasties in the region during this period: the Pallavas, centered on the eastern coastline around the cities of Kanchipuram and Mamallapuram, and the Pandyas, centered further south near Madurai.

This bronze representation of the Hindu god Vishnu is an example of the style of sculpture made during the Pallava rule. Vishnu stands on a square pedestal; a socle at the right may have been used to drain the liquids poured over the sculpture during worship. Iconographically, the sculpture depicts Vishnu in his supreme or para aspect. Shown standing in a frontal and somewhat rigid position, Vishnu wears a long skirtlike garment that falls to just above his ankles and is tied with a sash at his waist. A full scarf is tied over this skirt, its ends extending to either side at his hips. The four-armed Vishnu is identified by his attributes--the conch, wheel, and club--and he holds a small lotus flower in his outstretched lower right hand. The god's hair is arranged in a tall coiffure, and he wears an elaborate cylindrical crown. He is adorned with earrings, necklaces, armlets, bracelets, a belt around his upper waist, and a sacred thread.

This thread is worn by members of the high-ranking Brahmin caste traditionally responsible for the performance of rituals, and is a standard attribute of all Hindu gods. This iconography is found throughout India, but several details help to classify this sculpture as an example of south Indian art: the unusual belt around the midriff, the placement of the sacred thread over Vishnu's lower right arm, and the stylized treatment of the hems of his garment. Vishnu's round face, youthful features, lithe figure, and long, thin waist are also typical of works made in the Pallava territories.

South Indian bronze sculptures from the 7th to 9th centuries are relatively small in scale and were probably used for personal devotion rather than as the focus of temple rituals.

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 13.
Related Document Description: 
Mowry, Robert D. 'An Image of Maitreya and Other Pre-Angkor Prakhonchai Bronzes.' Orientations (December 1985), p. 37.
Related Document Description: 
Tarapor, Mahrukh. 'A Note on Chola Bronzes.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 408-09.
Related Image Identifier Link: