VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Shiva, Lord of the Dancers
AK-MAK-187
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The figure is of a high quality, technically well executed and with many fine details. The flowing locks of the God are interwoven with flowers. Between the strands of hair is perched another small figure; this mermaid is the goddess Ganga. The rest of Shiva's hair is knotted. On his head the god carries his standard attributes: the skull in the middle and the sickle at upper right. Beside them, also on Shiva's head, are poisonous flowers and a cobra. Another such snake is entwined around his arm. The palm of Shiva's right hand is turned towards the faithful. This is the gesture of reassurance. With his left arm the god points to his raised foot. Mortals who wished to tread the right path must be humble and honour Shiva's feet. With his right foot Shiva crushes the dwarf demon Apasmara. This demon represents the ignorance of man which is conquered by Shiva.

History of the Object
This incarnation of Shiva, as the Lord of the Dancers, was first rendered in bronze during the rule of the Chola Dynasty. The Chola rulers presided over a kingdom in southern India between the ninth and twelfth centuries, in what is now the state of Tamil Nadu. During the rule of the Cholas, architecture and sculpture flourished. Members of the royal family personally encouraged the arts. Among the most famous artistic achievements of this era are the great bronze figures of gods, of which this dancing Shiva at the Rijksmuseum is a beautiful example.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Bronze 
Measurements
154 x 114,5 cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
India 
Geography
India 
Time period
AD 12th century ~ AD 12th century 
Creation date
12th Century 
Function
A four-armed figure is dancing, surrounded by a flaming halo. It is the Hindu God Shiva. This showpiece of the Rijksmuseum's Asiatic art section shows Shiva as the Lord of the Dancers. In this incarnation he is the God which created, maintains and will destroy the world. His attributes point to this role: holding a small drum in his upper right hand, the God beats the rhythm of creation, with the fire in his left hand he destroys the world. On festivals, this figure would be dressed, hung with garlands of flowers and carried along in processions. Poles would be passed through the rings on the base in order to carry the statue. 
Acquisition
Acquisition 1935. Possible thanks to the support of Vereniging Rembrandt. Long term loan Rijksmuseum (1972) 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Vereniging van Vrienden der Aziatische Kunst 
Museum
Rijksmuseum 
Credit line
 

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