VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Ivory tile
MPE 141968
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The delicate carving shows the God Shiva in his Bhikshātanamurti form, the ascetic beggar. The tile’s imagery condenses the elements of a powerful story in which Shiva tested some “sages” that lived with their “chaste” wives in the Dāruka forest. Shiva approached them in the guise of a wandering ascetic, here represented, among other things, by his nakedness, his sandals and the little bell tied to his leg. Shiva’s arrival at the hermitage is suggested by the presence of the gazelle, considered to be a frequent visitor in such peaceful places. The sages, made proud by the assiduity of their devotions, were not able to recognize the true nature of the God. Their wives, upon seeing the beautiful stranger, fell into an erotic madness, losing all restraint. When they saw how their wives reacted the men lost their control and used their own power against the God. This lead to a number of consequences which lead to further stories.

History of the Object
This ivory tile is likely one of a series of similar pieces created for the throne of one the last Rajas of Thanjavur - most probably Serfoji II. A man of extraordinary culture and a patron of the arts and sciences, the capital became a renewed centre for learning under his reign (1798-1832). The royal seat was later inherited by his son, Shivaji II (1833-1855). At the time of his death, with no male heirs, the British disregarded any possible claim to the throne and declared the royal lineage of Thanjavur extinct. The throne itself was then destroyed, the gold melted, and the tiles dispersed. In 1883 Giglioli had four of the tiles (items n° 141968; n°141969; n°141970; n°141971) from his friend George Shaw, Thanjavur's Mint master.

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Type
Decorative Art 
Materials
Ivory 
Measurements
Width 12.1 cm. Length 14.8 cm.  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
India 
Geography
India 
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
18th Century - 19th Century 
Function
Ornamental 
Acquisition
From Enrico Hillyer Giglioli's collection, 1913 (see item n°143235) 
Copyright
©Soprintendenza al Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Roma 
Acknowledgements
Text: Alessandra Petrassi Photo: Giorgio Bronchi, Fabio Naccari ©Soprintendenza al Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Roma 
Owner
Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico Luigi Pigorini, Roma State property, Italy 
Museum
Museo Nazionale Preistorico Etnografico  
Credit line
 

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