Ivory relief of Rama and Lakshmana

From Tamil Nadu, India
Nayaka period, late 16th-17th century AD

Epic heroes from South India

This small ivory relief depicts the heroes of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Rama is seated in deep thought. His brother Lakshmana recongisable on accoun of the bow over his shoulder, greets him. In the Ramayana, Rama's wife Sita was abducted by the demon Ravana. After a series of adventures Rama defeated Ravana and the couple were reunited. The story of Rama and Sita is well-known all over India.

This relief was probably once part of a larger item made of wood decorated with inlaid ivory panels. Thrones, boxes, and then, in the colonial period, chairs were all enlivened this way. Ivory carving, popular in India from early times, reached a high point in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries under the patronage of the Nayaka rulers. Artists carved ivory sculptures of both rulers and deities. Paint was sometimes applied to the ivory and traces of gilding and painting certainly appear on this relief.

This panel once belonged to Lady Henrietta Clive, daughter-in-law of Lord Robert Clive. Clive led the British forces at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, one of the climactic events leading to the establishment of British rule in India. Lady Clive lived in Madras in south India between 1798 and 1803, where her husband, the son of Robert Clive, was governor.

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Height: 14.500 cm
Width: 9.200 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1995.10-6.1


Gift of the Brooke Sewell Fund with the assistance of Henry Ginsburg


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