Sensuous Image of an Apsara

Sensuous Image of an Apsara

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$1115
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20 to 24 weeks
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$223 (20%)
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$892
Item Code: EG81
Specifications:
South Indian Temple Wood CarvingArtist: P. Sengottuvel
3.0 ft X 1.3 ft X 0.3 ft
10.10 kg
This statue, a thirty-six inches tall wood-carving, represents the sensuous image of an Apsara – nymph, celestial beauty, looking into a mirror after her 'sringara' – make-up, is over. Norms of Indian iconography relating to modelling of various 'nayikas' – damsels with exceptional beauty engaged in an aspect of love to also include 'apsaras' carved on various parts of a temple, require a 'nayika' to have heavy hips, narrow waist, belly with 'trivali' – three folds, rounded well-protruding breasts, tall slender figure, bow-like curving eye-brows, large emotionally charged eyes, a parrot's beak-like sharp nose, small alluring lips, small pointed chin, long fingers and nails, well-defined neck, and the like.

This perception of the 'female' in India's sculptural art almost idealised the portrayal of female form – her iconography and anatomy; and hence, whatever the context or medium, wherever an Indian sculptor carved the figure of a woman – on a temple wall, door-jamb, or in a pleasure-garden of a prince, he conceived her as brimming with youth, beauty and life-vigour. It is not hence strange that sculptors, or even painters of Ajanta and Ajanta-type murals, portrayed thousands of female figures in ancient as well as medieval India, but in them there are hardly a few that reveal age and wrinkles. Thus, instead of creating an individual, Indian sculptor and painter created a model – a model of paramount beauty. This feminine world of Indian art so occupied its artist through ages that he perceived in her form only beauty – intrinsic or external, and warmth of youth and emotions.

This ages long aesthetic perception of Indian art seems to have occupied the mind of the artist when he was working on this piece. Hence, whatever its date, the statue belongs to and represents the classical tradition of India's art. Had it been in stone and without such embellishment as could be carved only in wood-like less hard medium, this statue could well be mistaken as one from Khajuraho. It has same modelling quality, plasticity, beauty of form, iconographic and anatomical precision, emotional bearing and sensuousness, and adherence to classical norms, as have Khajuraho sculptures. Khajuraho has its counterpart – a similar damsel looking into a mirror, but in this statue, wood has allowed the artist to carve around the figure a rich beautiful 'prabhavali' consisting of conventionalised banana creeper with birds perching on it, and fine details of anatomy and ornaments, which stone would have hardly allow to be carved on it. Two tiny figures of female attendants on the foot of the 'prabhavali' on both sides is perhaps the most interesting element added to the theme. One of them, on the left, has a monkey clinging to her with one of its hands holding her left breast. Monkey is considered as the most sexy creature. Hence, monkey's presence adds further thrust to the sensuous aspect of the theme.

The figure of the 'apsara' has been installed on a 'pitha' comprising two slabs of conventionalised designs. She is in a three-curved posture, which beautifully protrudes her left hip. The posture as beautifully twists her belly and projects her breasts. She inclines a little towards left for looking into the mirror but in the process her face turns into semi-profile, which better reveals the sharpness of her features and over-all beauty of face. The elaborately bejewelled damsel is almost nude except loins covered by a frilled ornament or cloth designed with frills and beads. Her well-dressed hair have been adorned with a beautiful head-ornament.

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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