South Indian / Tirthankara / 7th-early 8th centurySouth Indian
7th-early 8th 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: Tirthankara
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 600
Creation End Date: 733
Creation Date: 7th-early 8th century
Creation Place: India, Karnataka or Tamil Nadu
Object Type: Sculpture
Classification Term: Bronzes
Materials and Techniques: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H. 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.011
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: Tirthankaras are savior-saints in Jainism, a South Asian religion founded at about the same time as Buddhism by Vardhamana Mahavira (c. 540-468 BCE). Practiced today primarily in western and northern India, Jainism stresses nonviolence toward all living things and the practice of austeries. The term Jainism is derived from jina, the name given to twenty-four principal adepts and teachers of the religion. These figures, also known as tirthankaras, or "river-forders," are the principal focus of Jain art, and identified in the visual arts by a mark on the chest.

The nakedness of this tirthankara indicates that he belongs to the Digambara or 'sky-clad' sect of Jainism, which is the more austere of the two primary branches of the religion. His erect, motionless stance and elongated arms and earlobes are physical marks that indicate his spiritual advancement, and his posture and downcast eyes show that he is in meditation. He has the same idealized body used for Buddhist and Hindu divinities, however, the depiction of a roll of flesh at the waistline appears to be more common in Jain sculpture. The small leaflike mark on the upper right of his chest may have been intended to distinguish this tirthankara from the other twenty-three, however, it is not possible to identify him without further information. The lack of motion or activity in this figure embodies the Jain emphasis on living carefully and inflicting no harm.

The full, compact, and somewhat fleshy physique date this sculpture to the 7th or early 8th century. Moreover, the shape of the face and treatment of the features are typical of works cast in and around Tamil Nadu, a region that was famous for its bronze casting during the 9th through 12th centuries. The treatment of the figure's hair as a cap of loose but full curls is also characteristic of early sculptures from that part of India.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 11.
Related Document Description: Master Bronzes of India. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1965, cat. no. 18.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.011
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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