Indian art in close-up detail, £14.99
Height: 84.480 cm
Purchased with the assistance of the Brooke Sewell Fund
Asia OA 1961.10-22.1
Room 33: Asia
Wooden panel with a musician
From Kerala, southern
18th century AD
A musician to the gods
Carved in high-relief on a wooden panel a man stands with an oboe (nageswaram) in one hand. He holds his right hand above his shoulder, as if reaching for something in the tree above him. Alongside the images of deities on Hindu temples are subsidiary figures who entertain and accompany the gods, including dancers and musicians such as this one and the stone bracket figure of a female drummer from a Hoysala temple.
Wood is widely used in the temple arts of southern India. However, in the hot and humid climate of the subcontinent, wood does not survive long and consequently there are few surviving examples of wooden sculptures from before the seventeenth or eighteenth century. This panel has short pegs at the top and bottom that indicate that it was attached to a larger structure perhaps in a building. Kerala is one of the few areas of the subcontinent (the northwestern Himalayas are another example) where wood is used structurally for temple buildings. In Kerala, as elsewhere, wood is used to make chariots (rathas) and vehicles (vahanas) for carrying the gods in festival processions.
G. Michell (ed.), Living wood: sculptural tradit (Bombay, Marg Publications, 1992)