11th-12th century, Pāla period
H. 107 cm
This monumental stele represents the god Vishnu, protector of the universe. He is wearing the royal tiara (kirīta). Viṣṇu can be identified by the symbols he holds in his hands: the mace (gadā) in his raised right hand and the wheel (cakra), a particularly fearsome throwing weapon, in his raised left hand. With his other right hand, he makes the gesture symbolising the gift (varadamudrā). In his left hand, he holds a conch shell, another classic attribute of divinity.
Viṣṇu is surrounded by his two wives Lakṣmī and Sarasvatī, who stand in a wiggle. To Viṣṇu’s right is Lakṣmī, goddess of good fortune, and to her left is Sarasvatī, goddess of knowledge, wisdom and the arts, who can be recognised by the stringed instrument (vina) she carries. Two small figures next to the goddesses represent personified attributes of Viṣṇu. The god is also surrounded by vyala, as well as celestial beings on either side of his head.
Particular care has been taken with the ornamentation, with numerous sculpted details, delicate incisions and an openwork design that lighten this monumental stele. The whole piece is admirably preserved, with almost no erosion.
Provenance: Private collection, Netherlands, acquired from Christie’s Amsterdam in 2005; private collection before 1970 (by repute).