Museum Response Paper: South Asian Art
The Indian piece titled The Hindu deity Vishnu represents the distinguish between Hindu deities and ordinary humans. Vishnu is one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon and, along with Brahma and Shiva, is considered a member of the holy trinity of Hinduism. This piece was made approximately 300-400 to convey religious and philosophical meanings. The piece’s present location is the Asian Art Museum, it has also been at Asian House Gallery in New York, Kimbell Art Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, but it’s original location was the Uttar Pradesh state in the Mathura area, India. The piece is a sandstone sculpture with dimensions of H. 31 1/4 in x W. 15 in x D. 4 1/2 in, H. 79.4 cm x W. 38.1 cm x D. 11.4 cm. In the Hindu Deity Vishnu, we can see some techniques as scale of figures and location to get to the conclusion that Vishnu is a ruler or a powerful identity.
Vishnu is one the Hindu Deities, Vishnu comes to earth in many forms, as Rama and Krishna, to reestablish order when it is threatened. His four arms are a symbol of transcendent art as it goes beyond normal different from the regular people, humans. His clothing and accessories as weapons identify him as a god. As well as he is stand in a lotus which is a symbol of divine, beauty and purity. the chakra is one of Vishnu’s standard weapons, it is also the emblem of a universal sovereign, envisioned in the Indian cultural world as a “wheel turner” (chakravartin), whose chariot wheels convey him upon his conquests.[endnoteRef:1] The sculpture is an example of Mathura style which take place in central India, it is easy to recognized the style as the sculpture was made with red sandstone. The main characteristics that we can also see in the sculpture are the eyes closed, big shoulders and that we can see half of the body. [1: Asian Art Museum Online Collection. Accessed March 21, 2018. http://searchcollection.asianart.org/view/objects/asitem/nid/11274.]
Vishnu looks like a real emperor specially because the accessories as the crown, garland and jewelry highlighted at the sculpture. The wheel-like war discus (chakra) beneath his lower left hand emphasizes this association. While the chakra is one of Vishnu’s standard weapons, it is also the emblem of a universal sovereign, envisioned in the Indian cultural world as a “wheel turner” (chakravartin), whose chariot wheels convey him upon his conquests.[endnoteRef:2] It also shows universal balance the weapon and the association. [2: Asian Art Museum Online Collection]
More so than previously, sculpture was applied as a decoration, subordinate to its architectural setting. It was intricate and elaborate in detail and was characterized by complicated, many-armed figures drawn from the pantheon of Hindu and Jain gods, which replaced the earlier simple figures of Buddhist gods.[endnoteRef:3] This sculpture is a good example of the Hindu sculpture, starting with the complicated as we can see a lot of details on Vishnu’s face, 4 arms which make it complicated and unrealistic and an example of a Buddha and ruler also can be called a god because of the hands gestures, crown, weapon and accessories as jewelry. [3: "Indian Art and Architecture." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia 1p. 1. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, EBSCOhost (accessed March 20, 2018).]
The tittle of the sculpture tells us that the god there is Vishnu, but what we have read in the book; we would also be able to know that he is Vishnu without the tittle. He usually has four arms and wears a crown and lavish jewelry.[endnoteRef:4] As well as we know he is a divine god because of the accessories and extra information that the sculpture gives us. His attributes include the discus, conch shell, mace, and lotus.[endnoteRef:5] As I said before the lotus is the main attribute for divine, beauty and purity. [4: Thomas, Ema Kubo. Arths 193 History of Asian Art. 6th ed.] [5: Arth 193 History of Asian Art]
Mathura art refers to ancient school of art which centered on the city of Mathura, in central northern India. Mathura was an important city of central northern India for the Maurya Empire, whose capital was in eastern India at Pataliputra. The Mathura standing Buddha seems to be a slightly later development compared to the Bodhisattvas of the type of the Bala Bodhisattva. Mathura art gives a powerful impression of buddhas. I will talk about some characteristics of Mathura art. Mathura had a warm climate that is why on the sculptures the buddhas wear a robe which makes them look almost naked. Also, Mathura style focus on geometric figures specially on the face and the face gestures. The postures can symbolize and give an alert on the way it is sit or stand by knowing if it is full or energy or very clam. As well as they include a lot of imaginary associations with nature deities and reveals a spiritual power contained in physical form. At the museum, next to the sculpture I found a paper which said what each deity meant and for Vishnu it said that for his animal mount it is half human and half bird.[endnoteRef:6] [6: Asian Art Museum]
Hindu art represents a plurality of beliefs and has deeply influence the painting and sculpture of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism if the predominant religion of the Indian subcontinent and Hindu art reflects this plurality of beliefs. The many arms on Vishnu represents the extend of the God’s power and ability. I chose this sculpture because since we started studying the different styles on the Hindu art, I always related the buddha that I already saw with this one because the Red sandstone. I remember choosing in class also a buddha in Mathura style because how I related with the buddhas that my grandma has at home. When I got to the museum and I saw this sculpture I automatically related to the class and my experienced with buddhas at home.