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Sarasvati
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Sarasvati


Description Conservation Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description Sarasvati, goddess of music and learning, plucks the "vina"—a stringed musical instrument—while holding a palm leaf manuscript in one of her four hands. The manuscript alludes to sacred knowledge, protected by the goddess. Carved of sandstone native to the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the sculpture is part of a long history of stone carving in India, used to adorn its temples, forts, and palaces. Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists worship Sarasvati, having adapted her from earlier traditions which held that all natural objects have a spiritual essence. Taking her name from a river in India (now dry), Sarasvati was an ancient goddess who personified the abundant gifts bestowed by the river—not least to provide water to irrigate the lands. Legends of her generosity extended to her bestowal of knowledge, word, and sound to mankind, especially among later Hindu traditions. All around India, stories of her powers spread. Although monotheistic (believing only in one god), certain Muslim rulers of India celebrated Sarasvati. The Muslim sultan Ibrahim ‘Adil Shah II (r. 1580–1627), who played the "vina" and prided himself on being a fine poet, identified Sarasvati as his spiritual mother and composed verses in her honor. One verse reads: “Sarasvati is a white jasmine flower. Ibrahim, having put on a garland, bows his head before her and offers prayers.”
Conservation
Date Description Narrative
12/31/1969Treatmenttechnical study; cleaned
10/09/1996Loan Considerationexamined for loan
1/01/2004Treatmentstabilized; loss compensation
Exhibitions
  • Pearls on a String: Artists, Patrons, and Poets at the Great Islamic Courts. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Asian Art Museum, San Francisco. 2015-2016.
Provenance Present in Varanasi, India (?); acquired by William Wolff, New York; purchased by Walters Art Museum, 1969.
Credit Museum purchase, 1969

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Creator
Period
10th-11th century
Medium
sandstone
(Sculpture)
Accession Number
25.50
Measurements
Sculpture H: 28 1/16 × W: 21 7/8 × D: 9 5/8 in. (71.2 × 55.6 × 24.4 cm); Sculpture with base H: 30 7/8 × W: 23 1/8 × D: 10 1/4 in. (78.4 × 58.7 × 26.1 cm)
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