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Tantric Goddess
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Tantric Goddess


Description Exhibitions Provenance Credit
Description Wearing a crown of five human skulls, a garland of severed heads, armbands made of live snakes, and a tiger-skin garment tied at the waist, this goddess projects a fierce power. The curved knife and skull cup she holds enhance her ferocious character, and the missing objects that once rested in her two empty hands may have been equally threatening. As she sits upright, yogic energy rises through the central channel of her body and emerges from the top of her head, as if through her radiating, flame-like hair. The multi-pronged "vajra" on the end of the knife and the five skulls of the crown suggest that this sculpture was made for Buddhist rituals, for the "vajra" is most commonly associated with tantric Buddhist practices, and the number five is especially significant in Buddhist contexts (alluding to the five Buddha families and other sets of five). Whatever her precise religious affiliation, the tantric nature of this goddess is unmistakable. Transgressing the rules of mainstream traditions, the violence and death implied by the objects she wears and holds deliberately blur the lines between purity and impurity, protection and fear, and other binaries that tantric philosophies reject as illusions that prevent spiritual liberation.
Exhibitions
  • Desire and Devotion: Art from India, Nepal, and Tibet in the John and Berthe Ford Collection. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara; Albuquerque Museum, Albuquerque; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham; Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong. 2001-2003.
  • Ferocious Beauty: Wrathful Deities from Tibet and Nepal. 2016-2017.
Provenance Ian Alsop, New York and Santa Fe; purchased by John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, June 4 1992.
Credit Promised gift of John and Berthe Ford

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Creator
Period
14th century
Medium
copper alloy with traces of gilding and paint
(Sculpture)
Accession Number
F.179
Measurements
H: 5 11/16 × W: 3 7/8 × D: 2 15/16 in. (14.4 × 9.8 × 7.4 cm); H with Base: 6 5/8 × W: 4 9/16 × D: 3 3/8 in. (16.8 × 11.6 × 8.5 cm); Base H: 1 9/16 × W: 4 9/16 × D: 3 3/8 in. (3.9 × 11.6 × 8.5 cm).
Geographies
  • Nepal (Place of Origin)

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