South Indian / Nandi / Chola period, 10th-11th centurySouth Indian
Chola period, 10th-11th 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: Nandi
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 901
Creation End Date: 1099
Creation Date: Chola period, 10th-11th century
Creation Place: India, Tamil Nadu
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H. 20 1/4 in. (51.4 cm); W. 20 1/2 in. (52.1 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.030
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. In Shiva worship, the bull Nandi--which means "giving delight" or "giving joy"--is Shiva's companion or vehicle, and as such represents the power of the god. Individual images of Nandi are rare in the visual arts of South Asia. Like stone images, they would have been displayed near a figure of Shiva, and a freestanding sculpture of Nandi is always placed at the entryway to a temple dedicated to Shiva. This particular piece also would have been carried in processions with images of Shiva and members of his family.

Although this unusual work has been dated later, the sensuous modeling of Nandi's form, the detailed three-dimensional treatment of his jewelry, and the organic relationship between the bull's body and his jewelry and saddle all point to a date in the 10th or 11th century. The imprecise and sketchy treatment of the base--in particular the mismatched lotus petals--present a problem in dating the sculpture because this sketchiness is often found in later works. However, it is possible that this base is later than the sculpture, because a thin break encircles the figure of the bull, suggesting that it may have been placed into the base rather than cast at the same time.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 18.
Related Document Description: Calza, Gian Carlo. 'Musei: L'Asia in casa.' Antiquariato 34 (January 1983), p. 46.
Related Document Description: Tarapor, Mahrukh. 'A Note on Chola Bronzes.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 414.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.030
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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