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Standing Vishnu as Trivikrama
1996.0098
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

A high level of stylistic and technical refinement makes this representation of Vishnu a masterpiece. It goes on to represent the apogee of the Pratihara style of sculpture seen in parts of central and northern India from 8th-10th centuries. Based on the arrangement of his ayudhas (weapons), this sculpture of Vishnu derives its name Trivikrama which is one of the forms in a group of 24 forms of Vishnu. The depiction of Vishnu’s weapon and iconic attribute, the gada (mace), in his upper right arm is with a foliate, as if combining his second attribute the padma (lotus) in one form. The shankha (conch) and mace are both depicted in human form as a male and female attendant respectively. The composition of the sculpture is balanced and defined by the two seated devotees at the feet of Vishnu and the two garland-carrying celestial beings above. The conical crown adorning the head and complementing elongated halo are characteristic of the Pratihara style. A marked finesse is seen in the hourglass-shaped torso, diaphanous drapery and slender fingers of the deity. Stylistic innovation within prescribed tenets, and a balance in composition make this sculpture a masterpiece.

History of the Object
Vishnu is one of the primordial deities of the Hindu trinity along with Shiva and Brahma. He is attributed with the functions of creation, preservation and even destruction. Vishnu takes on several incarnations to protect humanity and to establish order on the land of mortals. As his popularity rose, an increasing number of temples came to be dedicated to the deity. Thus there was a proliferation of his representation in sculptural art. Temple building activity was at its peak in India from the 9th-12th centuries. This formal iconic representation of Vishnu too adorned a temple in the present Uttar Pradesh state of northern India built around 9th century.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Red-beige sandstone 
Measurements
107 x 55 x 18cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Uparmala-Surasena region, Uttar Pradesh, India 
Geography
India 
Time period
AD 9th century ~ AD 9th century 
Creation date
c. 9th century 
Function
Besides the presiding deity in the sanctum, medieval Indian temples were adorned with sculptures of deities and celestial beings on the exterior and interior walls. This iconic representation of Vishnu may have belonged to the sanctum of a temple. In that case it must have been worshipped by devotees and cared for by the priest. Or it may have adorned a cardinal niche of a temple dedicated to Vishnu. If it was placed in a niche, it fulfilled the principles of temple-building as prescribed in the indigenous texts on architecture. 
Acquisition
This artefact was purchased by the Museum in 1996. Within the Museum’s display, this Vishnu sculpture is part of the section that explains Hinduism. It is displayed with sculptures of other deities of the Hindu pantheon like Brahma and Shiva. 
Copyright
Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore 
Acknowledgements
Gauri Krishnan and Priya Jaradi 
Owner
Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore 
Museum
Asian Civilisations Museum 
Credit line
Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore 

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