Description In this devotional sculpture, possibly made for a domestic shrine, the Hindu god Vishnu projects an image of strength and stability, his sturdy body standing firmly and his four arms radiating symmetrically to either side. Revered by his devotees as both personal savior and cosmic preserver, he holds a wheel-shaped weapon (used to defend the righteous against enemies), a conch shell (the primordial sound of which is auspicious), a mace (a scepter-like weapon symbolizing Vishnu’s power), and a spherical object, which for Southeast Asian sculptures is usually interpreted as the orb of the earth, but which may have its origins as a schematic representation of the lotus (Vishnu’s fourth attribute in South Asian images and iconographical texts). Here, as in most images of Vishnu, the god’s body is adorned with kingly jewelry, but his matted locks of hair, piled into a tall headdress that rises above his diadem, are the sign of an ascetic yogi. Both the matted hair and the third eye—which appears vertically in the center of Vishnu’s forehead—are more commonly attributes of the god Shiva, but here they signal Vishnu’s yogic power.
Provenance Sherry & Lawrence Phillips Collection; Sale, Christie's, New York, March 25 2004, lot 166; purchased by Michael de Havenon, New York, 2004; given to Walters Art Museum, 2016.
Credit Gift of Michael and Georgia de Havenon in honor of Hiram "Woody" Woodward, 2016
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