VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Agni Relief
77.20-1
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Tapan Kumar Das Gupta, a former research assistant in our museum, chose this relief for the Virtual Collection of Masterpieces Website. He writes: “This Agni [relief] is so interesting because his meaning has changed so much in the course of the history of Indian thought. In the oldest literature, he was the most important god besides the great gods Indra and Varuna. Later, he was equated with another god, Rudra. When the god Shiva, probably coming from a foreign source, urged his way to the front, Agni became a form of Shiva. Later, he lost his importance completely and was only one of the eight heavenly guardians, guarding the southern direction. Our piece shows him in this function. It was probably situated at the southern wall of a temple. Today, the Museum for Ethnology Hamburg is one of the few museums outside India, which has a representation of Agni in its collection. For this fact, the museum owes its heartfelt thanks to its benefactor, F.K. Heller. “

History of the Object
Unfortunately, Heller was not interviewed about the places and circumstances of his acquisitions, so we know nothing about the earlier history of this piece.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Sandstone 
Measurements
Width 52 cm Height 78 cm  
Creator name
unknown 
Creator date
13th Century; probably 
Where it was made
India; Rajasthan 
Geography
India 
Time period
AD 13th century ~ AD 13th century 
Creation date
13th Century; probably 
Function
Part of the southern wall of a Hindu Temple 
Acquisition
The Relief was acquired in India in the middle of the 20th Century by a private collector, F.K. Heller. Heller had worked as a mercantile agent for German firms in India since the early decades of the 20th Century. He had to live in a detention camp for seven years during WW II. During this time, he developed an interest in Indian art. After the war, he started to collect. In 1970 he approached our museum, whose Indian collection was then almost purely ethnographic, and asked politely whether he would be allowed to donate some good pieces in order to give visitors to the museum a better idea about Indian art. The museum was only too happy to receive his gifts. In the course of some ten years, Heller donated over 400 pieces, which now form the core of our Indian collection. 
Copyright
Saal/Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg 
Acknowledgements
Thanks to Tapan Kular Das Gupta for his contribution! 
Owner
Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg 
Museum
Museum of Ethnology, Hamburg 
Credit line
Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg, Inv.-Nr. 77.20:1 

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  • Tapan Kumar Das Gupta529 weeks ago

    This Agni [relief] is so interesting because his meaning has changed so much in the course of the history of Indian thought. In the oldest literature, he was the most important god besides the great gods Indra and Varuna.

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