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Indian Art

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Shiva, Ardhanãrishvara

ca. 1750-1775
10 x 6 3/4 in. (25.4 x 17.1 cm)

Unknown, Indian

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold paint on thick, fibrous beige paper
Credit Line: Marion Stratton Gould Fund
Accession Number: 1980.44
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view

The form of Shiva represented in this work embodies Shiva's role as the unifier of opposites - life/death, creation/destruction, ascetic/erotic, male/female. Ardhanarishvara, or the Lord Whose Half is Woman, is the primordial androgyne and the true form of creative power - male and female in one.

If you look closely at the figure of Shiva seated under the tree, you will notice that the right half has white skin, wears a yellow dhoti, sits on a tiger skin and carries a trident, while the left half has yellow skin, wears a red sari, and sits on lotus petals. The right side represents the male, with common attributes of Shiva, and the left, the female.

The appearance of Shiva in this form is cause for celebration, illustrated by the elephants playing in the river, acrobats performing various feats, and musicians playing music. Even other gods come to pay tribute: Narayana appears with blue skin offering a lotus, and his vahana or vehicle Garuda, the eagle, offers flower garlands. Brahma, the creator (with four faces), also pays homage.

Alan J. Abrams, San Geronimo, CA; purchased by the Gallery in 1980

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