Quantcast
Videos ()
Brushed with Passion

Close

Krishna Killing the Horse Demon Keshi

Period:
Gupta period
Date:
5th century
Culture:
India (Uttar Pradesh)
Medium:
Terracotta
Dimensions:
H. 21 in. (53.3 cm); W.16 in. (40.6 cm); D. 4 1/4 in. (10.8 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift, 1991
Accession Number:
1991.300
  • Description

    Vishnu appears in innumerable guises (avatars) on earth but none is more popular than that of Krishna, the warrior-king who freed his people from demonic threats. On one occasion the youthful Krishna slayed the demon Keshi, who appeared in the guise of a horse. This subject probably has its origins in Hellenistic legends, most notably the labors of Hercules in which the Greek hero slays the horses of Diomedes. In this terracotta relief Krishna restrains the ferocious Keshi with his foot while thrusting his elbow down the beast's throat. Below the combatants are the dead horse and balls of dung emitted at the moment of death. The graphically observed rendering of the subject is a reminder of the importance of horse sacrifices in early Indian Vedic cult practices, of which this Krishna myth undoubtedly preserves a memory. Temple building began in earnest in India only in the Gupta period, and these brick and stone structures typically were decorated with terracotta plaques of this type for which Krishna was a popular subject.

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
38511

Close