Unknown10th century AD - 11th century AD

Museo d'Arte Orientale

Museo d'Arte Orientale
Torino, Italy

This sculpted stele depicts Shiva (Maheśvara) and Pārvatī (Umā) seated side by side in a mutual embrace. The empty space around the bodies of the deities does not lighten the stele as a whole, which has an abundantly decorated upper portion. The two deities are placed on a high bevelled pedestal decorated with five figures, three or which are anthropomorphic and two in animal forms. Crouching in the central part of the base are a bull and a lion, the vāhana of Shiva and Pārvatī. Between them is the ascetic Bhṛṅgi (?), with an emaciated appearance, dancing with a sword and a kapāla (?) in his hands. At the sides are depicted the other two small figures, a figure kneeling with his hands in the añjalimudrā gesture (Tumburu?) and a second dancer with a chubby appearance (Tandu?). A large cushion with a double corolla of lotus flowers is placed on the pedestal as a throne for the two deities. Pārvatī is seated on her consort’s left thigh – whose knee is bent and leg is resting on the seat - with the heel of her right foot touching her pubis. The goddess’ left leg, with the knee slightly bent, is left hanging down and the divine foot is supported by a small lotus flower. Shiva’s right leg is in a similar position. Shiva has his arm around Pārvatī, passing beneath her left arm, with the hand resting under the goddess’s full breast. Pārvatī has her right arm around Shiva’s neck, almost clinging to her larger consort, and in her left hand she holds a mirror at chest height. Unlike his wife, Shiva has four arms: in his upper right hand, the god is holding a huge nīlotpala flower, with the petals closed; his lower left hand holds Pārvatī, while the upper one, level with her face, is wielding a large triśūla. Shiva’s second right hand is held close to Pārvatī’s chin, to raise his consort’s face in a gesture of tenderness: the faces of the two deities, with their sharp, angular features, are turned towards each other - Shiva’s looking downwards, and Pārvatī’s lifted slightly towards her spouse. The facial expressions are beautifully formed, with the eyes of each appearing to seek the other. Pārvatī is wearing a regularly folded antarīya, decorated with small random designs; Shiva has a dhotī with bordered edge that touches his knees. The deities are also wearing belts and jewellery with a rich and heavy appearance, typical of the medieval period. Śiva’s face, which ends in a prominent, pointed chin, has slanted eyes, arched eyebrows that rise towards the temples and a large pointed nose. The shape, height and decorative complexity of his jaṭā-mukuṭa make it seem more like a diadem than a hairstyle. The goddess’ hairstyle, with the hair gathered more simply above her head, is nevertheless swollen and adorned with jewellery, giving it a heavy and laborious appearance. The heads of the deities cover part of the rear panel, which is decorated with a trefoil motif with a lotus flower in the centre. The upper part of the stele is rounded, culminating in a central cusp in which a kīrtimukha has been placed: a rich plant-like motif cascades downwards from the mouth of the mask. At the sides of the stele, two vidyādharā figures appear in vaporous clouds depicted in relief. They both hold garlands in their hands and each is accompanied by a small gaṇa.

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  • Title: Umā-Maheśvara
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 10th century AD - 11th century AD
  • Physical Dimensions: w33 x h68.5 x d13.5 cm
  • Dynasties: Pāla
  • Provenance: Comune di Torino
  • Type: Sculptures
  • Rights: All Rights Reserved - MAO - Museo d'Arte Orientale, Turin
  • Medium: Basalt