Head of Viṣṇu

Black stone
Circa 11th century, Gurjara-Pratihāra period
H. 33 cm



An impressive and rare head of Viṣṇu in black stone, dating from medieval times in Western India, and measuring nearly 33 cm in height. Its face offers stylized features, with sharp lines that outline the nose, the lids contour and the eyebrows, and a magnificent headdress adorned with rich details. A series of thin curls, concentrated and regular, allows the transition between the two.

This large and beautiful facetted tiara is decorated in its lower part with a frieze of kīrtimukha, that is, leonine horny heads, stylized and prophylactic, linked by pearl-bordered lambrequins. Other jewelled elements and trimmings enrich the rest of the headdress, creating harmonious geometric decorative patterns.

All this is characteristic of the art of the end of the Gurjara-Pratihāra period (about 7th-11th century), in Rājasthān and Madhya Pradesh. A contemporary stele, also representing the god Viṣṇu, kept in the National Museum of New Delhi and published in George Michell’s In the Image of Man (p.197), is quite comparable, both in terms of material and iconography than style.


Provenance : Private collection, UK, before 1980.
Art Loss Register Certificate, ref. S00139165