South Indian / Shiva and Parvati (Somaskanda) / Chola period, 12th centurySouth Indian
Shiva and Parvati (Somaskanda)
Chola period, 12th 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: Shiva and Parvati (Somaskanda)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1000
Creation End Date: 1099
Creation Date: Chola period, 12th century
Creation Place: India, Tamil Nadu
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H. 19 in. (48.3 cm); W. 23 3/4 in. (60.3 cm) at base
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.028
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The bronze sculptures of Hindu gods and Buddhist deities cast during the Chola period (880-1279) are among the most renowned sculptures in world art. The Cholas came to power in the late 9th century, and until the late 13th century 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. Chola rulers were active patrons of the arts, and during their rule, literature, dance, and the other performing arts flourished. They also constructed enormous temple complexes decorated with stone representations of the Hindu gods.

Admired for the sensuous depiction of the figure and the detailed treatment of their clothing and jewelry, Chola-period bronzes were created using the lost wax technique, commonly known by its French name, cire perdue. Because each sculpture made in this fashion requires a separate wax model, each is unique, but because they are religious icons, Chola-period sculptures also conform to well-established iconographic conventions.

As devout Hindus, the Cholas revered Shiva as their tutelary deity. Shiva is the most complicated deity in the Hindu pantheon, has the most manifestations, and is worshipped in many guises. Images of Shiva and his wife Parvati seated together with their son Skanda, a tableau known as Somaskanda, are among the more popular icons produced during the Chola period. In the Somaskanda illustrated here, Shiva is identified by the crescent moon and skull in his headdress, references to his asceticism, as well as the antelope in his left hand, which refers to his role as Lord of Animals. As Shiva's wife, Parvati is often shown as gentle and loving. In family portraits such as this, she is smaller than Shiva and holds her right hand in a distinctive gesture in which the hand is curved and the thumb and the forefinger touch or almost touch. As is frequently true of bronzes of this type, the small image of Skanda (also known as Kumara, Karttikeya, and the god of war), whose presence is indicated by the round area on top of the pedestal, has been lost over time.

Shiva is the only god in the Hindu pantheon who is commonly shown in his role as husband and father. Most often Shiva's family life is illustrated by scenes such as this one, in which he is enjoying the company of his wife and son.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 17.
Related Document Description: Barrett, Douglas. 'A Group of Bronzes of the Late Cola Period.' Oriental Art 29 (Winter 1983-84), p. 365.
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. 27, 32.
Related Document Description: Tarapor, Mahrukh. 'A Note on Chola Bronzes.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 413.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.028
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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