Mask of Vaikuntha Vishnu
late 5th century
India (Jammu and Kashmir, ancient kingdom of Kashmir)
H. 13 1/4 in. (33.7 cm); W. 12 1/2 in. (31.8 cm); D. 5 in. (12.7 cm)
Gift of Donald and Polly Bruckmann, 2004
This early representation of Vishnu expresses the deity’s supreme manifestation, in which his two premier avatars, the boar Varaha and the man-lion Narasimha, are given expression in one form, the three-headed Para Vasudeva or Vaikuntha. Here, only the boar survives intact, framing the moustached and crowned Vishnu, who embodies an Indian vision of kingship. This remarkable bronze mask would have been secured to a wood frame, richly clothed, and garlanded to evoke the presence of Vishnu during temple festival parades, as is still seen today in the remoter regions of Himachal Pradesh in northern India.