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Description Like an earthly king emerging from his palace to give an audience to his people, this sculpture would have been ceremoniously brought out of the temple and adorned with necklaces, crowns, diadems, ear ornaments, and rings. Crowds saw Shiva as if he were in motion, towering above them from his position on a chariot or palanquin. At moments, there was a pause, and Shiva would be lowered to the ground so that devotees could honor him with the prayers and gestures of ritual worship, or puja. Sitting in a position of royal ease, with one foot crossed before him and the other resting on a lotus flower, Shiva holds a battle axe, which cuts through illusion, and an antelope, which symbolizes his role as lord of creatures. Shiva’s third eye, positioned vertically in his forehead, alludes to his all-seeing wisdom and his destructive capacity: when he opens that eye, Shiva unleashes a fire of destruction that regenerates the cosmos. Widely admired today for their craftsmanship, this festival bronzes was produced in southern India, mostly in the state of Tamil Nadu, during the Chola dynasty (9th–13th century). The Chola kings and their people spoke Tamil; the language continues to be used in southern India. Part of a rich and still living tradition of casting solid metal sculpture in South India, this image was made using the lost-wax casting technique. First, a model of the final sculpture is created from a mixture of wax and resin. Every detail that is seen in the cast metal sculpture is captured in this wax-resin model. The model is then encapsulated in a mold, leaving an opening at its base. The mold is heated, which solidifies the mold material, while the wax within is melted and poured out. The mold is then inverted, metal is melted in a crucible, and the molten metal is poured into the void left by the melted wax. Once cooled, the mold is broken, revealing the cast metal sculpture.
  • 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.
Provenance Nasli Heeramaneck, New York; purchased by John and Berthe Ford, Baltimore, April 1970; given to Walters Art Museum, 2011.
Credit Gift of John and Berthe Ford, 2011

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ca. 1300
copper alloy
Accession Number
H: 21 9/16 x W: 16 x D: 16 1/2 in. (54.8 x 40.6 x 41.9 cm)


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