South Indian / Seated Woman / Pandya period, 8th-9th centurySouth Indian
Seated Woman
Pandya period, 8th-9th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: South Indian
Creator Active Place: South Indian
Creator Name-CRT: South Indian
Title: Seated Woman
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 700
Creation End Date: 899
Creation Date: Pandya period, 8th-9th century
Creation Place: India, Tamil Nadu
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Granulite
Dimensions: H. 67 in. (170.2 cm); W. 34 3/4 in. (88.3 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.016
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: 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.

The powerful physicality and oval face of this monumental sculpture of a seated woman suggest a provenance in the regions controlled by the Pandyas. Seated in a relaxed position against a slightly damaged throne, this figure wears a long skirt fastened at the waist and has an additional scarf tied over her hips. A tall crown, her simple jewelry, and a sacred thread running from her left shoulder to right hip are characteristic of early south Indian sculptures. The sacred 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.

Both the function and iconography of this piece remain uncertain. The Pandyas are noted for their construction of rock-cut temples created from natural caves. The facades of these structures were often decorated with sculptures, and it seems likely, given the weathered condition of this piece, that it once graced the front of such a temple. The clothing, jewelry, and confident posture of the figure suggest that she might represent a queen. This identification is supported by the importance of women as patrons and the fairly early use of idealized portraits of rulers in the imagery of south Indian temples. However, it was unusual for women to wear the sacred thread, and so it is also possible that this sculpture is a representation of a Hindu goddess. The position of her right hand and the remnants of a stem and flower indicate that she once held a lotus, a gesture commonly used in representations of the goddess Parvati, Shiva's wife. The Pandyas were devoted to Shiva and, if this striking sculpture were to represent a goddess, it would likely be Parvati.

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: Heeramaneck, Alice N. Masterpieces of Indian Sculpture from the Former Collections of Nasli M. Heeramaneck. New York: Privately printed, 1979, fig. 101.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. New York: Asia Society, 1970, pp. 22-23, 31.
Related Document Description: Newman, Richard. The Stone Sculpture of India: A Study of the Materials Used by Indian Sculptors from ca. 2nd Century B.C. to the 16th Century. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Art Museums, Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1984, pp. 17, 19-20, 23, 65, 67, 70, 74, 84.
Related Document Description: Pal, Pratapaditya. The Sensuous Immortals: A Selection of Sculptures from the Pan-Asian Collection. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1978, p. 107.
Related Document Description: Young, Mahonri Sharp. 'Treasures of the Orient: A Rockefeller Collection.' Apollo (November 1970), p. 334.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.016
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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