Terracotta tile with a musician


British Museum

British Museum

While the origins of the Hindu temple are difficult to trace, it is clear that by the fifth century two distinct types of temples were in use: small stone temples and more elaborate ones made of brick and decorated with terracotta panels. It seems that brick temples were most popular in areas where stone was scarce, notably the Gangetic Plain of northern India. Terracotta tiles like this have been found at sites with brick temples such as Bhitargaon, Shravasti, Nagari and Pawaya.This piece shows a male figure with a stringed instrument. He is probably a semi-divine musician, many of whom are often found in subordinate niches in well-preserved Hindu temples of the tenth to eleventh century.The figure sits in an arched niche. He is placed to the left and breaks out of the confines of the arched margin, giving an immediacy and energy to the composition. Typical of workmanship of the Gupta period (AD 320-550) are the cascading looped curls (almost wig-like), full lips, slightly bulging and elongated eyes, heavy jowled face and long and slightly flattened fingers and toes.

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  • Title: Terracotta tile with a musician
  • Date Created: 400/499
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 11.00in
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Subject: musician; musical instrument
  • Registration number: 1969,1217.1
  • Place: Found/Acquired India
  • Material: terracotta
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Barrett, Douglas Eric