VISHNU: THE REINCARNATION OF HINDU SCULPTURE – Christopher Gillispie

This exhibition is to show sculptures of many different materials of Lord Vishnu, the Hindu God of protection and preservation, and the deities that came from him. 

This piece is a depiction of Lord Vishnu embodied in the King of Boon Bestower. You see the king seated on a medieval Indian thrown holding the four items typical of Lord Vishnu (lotus, mace, conch, and a discus; a religious weapon. The reflective symmetry of this piece creates a beautiful unity around this Hindu God. The characterized face shows it is from the medieval Indian, 14th century, period.
This sculpture shows Lord Vishnu around a few of his attendants. Lord Vishnu is depicted with his lotus, mace, conch, and discus. You can also clearly see Vishnu’s stylized halo behind his head. The proportion of this scene shows the god-like Vishnu about double the scale of the other attendants.
This wood and paint sculpture of Vishnu is from the 17th century. Shows this deity in rare form, he is smiling, fingers in a “peace” position and not carrying any of his weapons except his mace which is clearly planted in the ground. Another thing that makes this such a special piece is the analogous color schemes of red and orange meant to create a relaxed environment with this stylized God.
This sandstone sculpture hails from the 10th century Central India. This depicts Lord Vishnu in his boar-headed persona called Varaha. In this representation you see he still holds the lotus but instead of weaponry he has oil containers and other decorative objects. This sculpture shows another proportional difference in items to Varaha. You can see the baby he holds is the same size as the decorative item he hold in the right hand and his small dagger he has sheathed. Also the lotus is the same size as Varaha’s head. Another interesting aspect of this sculpture is how it resembles Egyptian art of that century with the profile head, forward torso and outstretched hands.
This phyllite stone sculpture is from 12th century Bangladesh. This sculpture shows Vishnu with his hands open, palm up, and two smaller attendants below him. What makes this sculpture interesting is the patters and lines used throughout the background. The lines show a dynamic piece even though Vishnu is captured standing still, as his attendants.
This gilt bronze statue of Vishnu and the Garuda is from late 12th century Khmer Period in Cambodia. This depicts a stylized Lord Vishnu on his holy vehicle, the Garuda. This is a very non traditional depiction of Vishnu as he has only two arms and not holding his typical lotus and weapons. Also the garments show a more Balinese approach to this God, as understood by the presence of a Garuda. The movement in this piece is also quite spectacular. The Garuda has a leg forward as if to take flight any moment with his wings outstretched.
This late 10th century sandstone sculpture shows Vishnu towering above many attendants and two avatars. Because the sculpture is so badly damaged it is difficult to make out who this is. There is a definitely hierarchy of characters in this depiction. You have Vishnu the God and clearly the largest object in this piece. Then you have two women or avatars that come up about waist height. Finally, the faithful attendants which are always depicted about ankle to knee height.
This sandstone sculpture is from the 7th century around Cambodia. Because of it’s location and time period, it is thought to be Lord Vishnu. This is very difficult to surmise as the sculpture is so badly degraded. What you can see is a torso, with arms and assumed palms down with a cloth wrapped around his waste. The interesting part of this is, as the face and other determining features are gone you can focus on the lines of the body and appreciate this sculpture for what it is. The body is realistic with the hint of fat around the belly but very contorted lines around the waste and no muscle, as someone that didn’t participate in hard labor would look. The body is soft and the line that separates the stomach from the cloth is perfectly defined.
This red sandstone sculpture is from 10th century Central India. This beautiful sculpture depicts Lord Vishnu surrounded by his avatars, or reincarnates. Because of the period and location of this piece, the characters are highly stylized. Again, the visual hierarchy is key. The proportion of the Avatars to Lord Vishnu is scaled to show visual dominance of the true God Lord Vishnu.
This copper alloy sculpture is from late 9th century Nepal. The artist used their regional influence which is seen in the appearance of this Lord Vishnu. The body is more realistic and the items he carries are all the same but are proportionally different than if this was from India. This 9.5 inch statue shows the deity in a frontal pose with his four typical attributes: the discus, conch, lotus, and mace. The balance in this piece is almost perfect. You can see a purely symmetric balance from one side of the piece to the other.
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