Dancing Celestial Deity (Devata)
- early 12th century
- India (Uttar Pradesh)
- H. 33 1/2 in. (85.1 cm)
- Credit Line:
- Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2015
- Accession Number:
Imagine posing as a model for this dancing female figure. You'll soon realize that this striking pose is anatomically impossible. Yet the sculptor has captured the essence of continuous, whirling motion.
This 12th-century figure ornamented a north Indian Hindu temple, in what's now Uttar Pradesh. She represents one of many celestial or semidivine attendants, dancing reverently for the main deity of the temple. Some temples kept troops of real women who danced for the god to please him.
You can see a stylistic shift away from the plain surfaces of the Gupta era. The eye-catching jewelry and costume emphasize surface ornament-especially as a contrast to the smooth, abundant flesh. The exaggerated pose focuses attention on the figure's lively contours. The spikes on the crown, the swaying necklace, and tassels around the waist amplify the impression of rhythmic, dancing movement, and lend verisimilitude to the abstract body.