Published: July 24, 2007
“Shiva as Brahma,” South India, Chola dynasty, Tenth/ Eleventh Century, a life-sized granite sculpture of one of the supreme deities of the Hindu pantheon, recently made its Cleveland debut alongside other key works from the museum’s holdings of Indian sculpture in the exhibition, “Shiva: A Recent Acquisition.”
Widely recognized as a superb example of Chola stone sculpture, the sculpture is one of a group of works recently deaccessioned by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y. The gallery decided to use the funds generated by the sale of objects that were judged not to be central to its mission to strengthen its endowment for the acquisition of modern and contemporary art. The price paid for this work, $4.072 million, including the buyer’s premium, during Sotheby’s March Asia Week sales, set a record for a work of Indian sculpture sold at auction.
“Shiva as Brahma” underscores the CMA’s focus on the continued development of a collection that today has few rivals in terms of its quality and depth. The sculpture broadens the scope of the museum’s holdings of Shiva in his various forms.
The exhibition features “Shiva as Brahma” displayed along with “Shiva’s Gajasura-Samharamurti,” South India, Chola period, Eleventh Century; “Shiva as Tripuravijaya, Victor of the Three Cities and Consort,” South India, Chola period, Tenth Century; “Trident with Shiva as Ardhanari, Half Woman,” South India, Chola period, Ninth⁔hirteenth Century; and “Nataraja: Shiva as the King of Dance,” South India, Chola period, Ninth⁔hirteenth Century.
The sculptures on display were carefully selected to focus on the supreme deity Shiva and his many manifestations in religion of Shaivism.
“Shiva as Brahma” portrays one of the principal Hindu deities as the omnipotent god who destroys the universe to recast it in a more perfect form. This rare life-size stone sculpture blends the features and attributes of Shiva the Destroyer with Brahma the Creator, whose four heads look toward the cardinal points: north, south, east and west.
“Shiva as Brahma” belongs to a small group of sculptures initially identified as Brahma †the “Creator” in Hindu lore combines iconographic features of two deities: Brahma and Shiva (with the third eye on his forehead and his gestured hands in blessing †abhaya †and teaching †varada mudras).
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