5705

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South Indian Bronze Saivite Saint

Tamil Nadu, South India
18th century

height: 13cm, width: 6.6cm, depth: 5.9cm, weight: 718g

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Provenance

private collection, Sydney, Australia; acquired in London, 2010.

Cast miniature bronze images of Hindu saints are relatively rare. The popular deities are the more usual subjects. The finely-cast example here shows a Saivite saint seated cross-legged in sattvasana on a conical base (which sits on a square platform). His features are fleshy and well-formed.

The saint holds a lingam in his left hand and another attribute in his right. He is bearded. He wears several necklaces, a belt and buckle, a waist ornament.  His tall crown is topped with an ample bud finial, and prominent side ribbons emerge from the headdress and fall to past the shoulders.

The rendering of the beard is unusual and reminiscent of how Sikh men in India’s north sometimes wear their beards pulled back.

The image is likely to be of one of the Nayanars (‘hounds of Shiva’, later ‘teachers of Shiva’), a group of 63 saints who were based in Tamil Nadu in the 6th-8th centuries who were devoted to Shiva.

The bronze here is in excellent condition. Its contours have been worn smooth by age and ritual and ritual handling. It has a lovely, varying patina and colour.

References

Pal, P., Art from the Indian Subcontinent: Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum, Yale University Press, 2003.

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