Ivory relief of Rama and Lakshmana


British Museum

British Museum

This small ivory relief depicts the heroes of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Rama is seated in deep thought. His brother Lakshmana recongisable on accoun of the bow over his shoulder, greets him. In the Ramayana, Rama's wife Sita was abducted by the demon Ravana. After a series of adventures Rama defeated Ravana and the couple were reunited. The story of Rama and Sita is well-known all over India.This relief was probably once part of a larger item made of wood decorated with inlaid ivory panels. Thrones, boxes, and then, in the colonial period, chairs were all enlivened this way. Ivory carving, popular in India from early times, reached a high point in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries under the patronage of the Nayaka rulers. Artists carved ivory sculptures of both rulers and deities. Paint was sometimes applied to the ivory and traces of gilding and painting certainly appear on this relief.This panel once belonged to Lady Henrietta Clive, daughter-in-law of Lord Robert Clive. Clive led the British forces at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, one of the climactic events leading to the establishment of British rule in India. Lady Clive lived in Madras in south India between 1798 and 1803, where her husband, the son of Robert Clive, was governor.

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  • Title: Ivory relief of Rama and Lakshmana
  • Date Created: 1500/1699
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 14.50cm; Width: 9.20cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved; painted; gilded
  • Registration number: 1995,1006.1
  • Production place: Made in Tamil Nadu
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot India
  • Period/culture: Vaishnava
  • Material: ivory
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Ginsburg, Henry. Collected by Clive, Henrietta. Funded by Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund


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