Most likely the torso of a celestial woman or 'surasundari', this sculpture embodies the Indian ideals of feminine beauty: full, spherical breasts set close, narrow wasp-like waist, ample hips and elaborate jewellery that accentuates the soft tactility of the flesh. This kind of representation of the feminine was included in the iconographic program of the Hindu temple in order to improve its power.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.22.

Founded early in the ninth century, the Chandella dynasty, one of thirty-six Rajput clans, was a major regional power by the tenth century. This female figure undoubtedly was part of the luxurious surface decoration typical of the external walls of Chandella religious monuments. The figure may be a 'yakshi', a female nature spirit whose erotic, sensual forms, charged with suggestions of fertility, were lovingly carved by medieval Indian sculptors.

Excerpt from Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 289.

This sculpture exemplifies the Indian ideals of feminine beauty: tall and slender forms, with narrow waists, curvaceous hips and full rounded breasts. Draped in scanty, diaphanous drapery, decked in opulent jewellery, and striking a seductively languid pose, the figure exudes sensuality and is the epitome of sumptuousness and grace. Conveying the age-old ideas of fertility, abundance and auspiciousness, such female figures would have once adorned the walls of Hindu temples built under the aegis of the Chandella dynasty. The Chandellas are particularly known for their temple-building tradition and for commissioning monumental structures with luxurious surface decoration, such as those at Khajuraho. Traditional architecture manuals endorse the carving of female imagery on temple structures. The Shilpa Prakasha (Light on Art), of about the eleventh century, states: ‘As a house without a wife, as frolic without a woman, so, without the figure of woman the monument will be inferior of quality and bear no fruit’ (quoted in Dehejia 1999: 164). Female figures rendered religious monuments efficacious and prosperous. This figure is charged with movement, vitality and sensuous warmth. She twists in space as she stretches dreamily. The small attendant by her side gazes up and plays with the end of the billowing scarf. The dynamic, exaggerated pose suggests that this sculpture was meant to be viewed from below and, therefore, would have been positioned high on the temple wall.

Chaya Chandrasekhar, ‘Goddess: divine energy’, pg.25. © 2006 Art Gallery of New South Wales


  • Title: Female torso
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Creator Gender: None
  • Date Created: 11th century
  • Location: Madhya Pradesh, India
  • Physical Dimensions: 53.0 cm
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Margaret Hannah Olley Art Trust 1990
  • Medium: carved sandstone
  • Signature & Date: Not signed. Not dated.
  • Period: India: Chandella dynasty circa 831-1308

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