This 36 inch tall statue, carved out of a single log of India's finest Vangai wood of Kalakorchi region in Tamilnadu, is an excellent piece of wood-art. It is a model of a highly accomplished youthful Yakshi, a class of celestial female of Indian mythology and an ideal of beauty as conceived in ancient texts. Yakshas and Yakshis were subordinate kinds of gods like Gandharvas and Apsaras. Gandharvas were essentially the dancing and singing clan but Yakshas had multiple roles. They served best as gods' messengers. It is a Yaksha who is the hero of Meghadoot, one of the best known Indian classics, a long lyrical narrative of the great Samskrit poet Kalidasa. For a folly this Yaksha was expelled from heaven. When in exile at Ujjayani he prays 'Megha', the clouds, to carry his words to his loved wife at Amaravati, the capital of Indra. Yakshis were energetic youthful female of Indraloka singing, dancing and playing on musical instruments.
The 'Puranic' cult of 'Apsaras' and 'Yakshis' continued in India's temple architecture during the early phase of medieval era when at Khajuraho, Bhuvaneshvara, Konarka and hundreds of other places temple-exteriors were embellished using 'Apsara' and 'Yakshi' statues. Their figures represented the highest ideal of beauty and youthful vigour. This wooden masterpiece is a reminiscent of the same mythological and architectural tradition, though it has, especially in its modeling, a blend of North and South Indian art cults. The features that the artefact has been endowed with has typical South Indian character and its physical build is as much characteristic of North India. Temples of north do not have a single figure - male or female, without a form of dance. Rhythm is their essentiality. This Yakshi, though an instrumentalist, is as much in a dance move, but her dance form is more akin to South Indian Kathakali.
The statue, an example of excellent craftsmanship, represents a celestial being who appears to be both, a dancer and an accomplished instrumentalist capable of playing two instruments - a 'tanapura' and 'sarangi', simultaneously. A third - a 'mradanga' or long drum, is her third accompaniment, though she is no playing on it. The 'tanapura' one might play by a single hand but it is not so with 'sarangi'. In playing on 'sarangi' one has to apply two hands. Besides, she is not seated as is usually required in playing on these instruments. The sculptor has thus suggested her super-human status. With fine features - a sharp nose, passionately tempting cute lips, emotionally charged eyes, pointed but well shaped chin, beautifully rounded cheeks, a well defined neck and as well shaped and fascinatingly rounded breasts surmounted by finial like nipples, exceptionally proportioned figure and splendid ornamentation the Yakshi is the model of beauty. Save a sash around her shoulders and some passementeries on her waist, she wears no garments on her person but her elegant ornaments - especially the girdle around her waist and beaded laces and frills suspending from it, cover her nudity. The beaded necklace heaving upon her breasts so temptingly underlines their magic. The artist has packed with unsurpassed beauty every member of her being.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.
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How to care for Wood Statues?
Wood is extensively used in sculpting especially in countries like China, Germany, and Japan. One feature that makes the wood extremely suitable for making statues and sculptures is that it is light and can take very fine detail. It is easier for artists to work with wood than with other materials such as metal or stone. Both hardwoods, as well as softwood, are used for making sculptures. Wood is mainly used for indoor sculptures because it is not as durable as stone. Changes in weather cause wooden sculptures to split or be attacked by insects or fungus. The principal woods for making sculptures and statues are cedar, pine, walnut, oak, and mahogany. The most common technique that sculptors use to make sculptures out of wood is carving with a chisel and a mallet. Since wooden statues are prone to damage, fire, and rot, they require proper care and maintenance.
It is extremely important to preserve and protect wooden sculptures with proper care. A little carelessness and negligence can lead to their decay, resulting in losing all their beauty and strength. Therefore, a regular clean-up of the sculptures is a must to prolong their age and to maintain their shine and luster.
Wood has been a preferred material for sculptures and statues
since ancient times. It is easy to work with than most metals and
stones and therefore requires less effort to shape it into any
desired shape or form. The texture of the wood gives an element of
realism to the sculpture. The selection of an appropriate wood
type is necessary for carving. Woods that are too resinous or
coniferous are not considered good for carving as their fiber is
very soft and thus lacks strength. On the other hand, wood such as
Mahogany, Oakwood, Walnut wood, Weet cherry wood, etc., are
preferred by sculptors because their fiber is harder.
A wood sculptor uses various tools such as a pointed chisel in one
hand and a mallet in another to bring the wood to the desired
measurement and to make intricate details on it. A carving knife
is used to cut and smooth the wood. Other tools such as the gouge,
V-tool, and coping saw also serve as important tools in wood
carving. Although the wood carving technique is not as complex and
tough as stone carving or metal sculpting, nonetheless, a wood
carver requires a high level of skills and expertise to create a
The process of wood carving begins with selecting a chunk of wood
that is required according to the type and shape of the statue to
be created by the sculptor. Both hardwoods and softwoods are used
for making artistic pieces, however, hardwoods are preferred more
than softer woods because of their durability and longevity. But
if heavy detailing is to be done on the statue, wood with fine
grain would be needed as it would be difficult to work with
Once the wood type is selected, the wood carver begins the
general shaping process using gouges of various sizes. A gouge
is a tool having a curved cutting edge which is useful in
removing large unwanted portions of wood easily without
splitting the wood. The sculptor always carves the wood across
the grain of the wood and not against it.
When a refined shape of the statue is obtained, it is time for
making details on the statue using different tools. This is
achieved by using tools such as a veiner to make and a V-tool to
create decorative and sharp cuts.
Once finer details have been added, the sculptor is ready to
smoothen the surface and give it a perfect finish. Tools such as
rasps and rifflers are used to get a smooth surface. The finer
polishing is obtained by rubbing the surface with sandpaper. If
a textured surface is required, this step is skipped. Finally,
to protect the statue from excessive dirt accumulation, the
sculptor applies natural oils such as walnut or linseed oil all
over it. This also brings a natural sheen to the statue.
Wood statues are lighter in weight and less expensive than metal
or stone pieces. Because wood is prone to fast decay by fungus and
algae, statues made out of this material are not preferred to be
kept outside. The rich tradition of wood carving in countries such
as Africa, Egypt, India, and Nepal has been followed for many
centuries. Indian craftsmen are specialized in this classic art
and continue to exhibit their extraordinary artistic skills.
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