Yashoda with the Infant Krishna

Period: Chola period (880–1279)

Date: early 12th century

Culture: India (Tamil Nadu, Pudukkottai and Tanjavur districts)

Medium: Copper alloy

Dimensions: H. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm); W. 11 13/16 in. (30 cm); D. 10 7/8 in. (27.6 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, in honor of Cynthia Hazen and Leon B. Polsky, 1982

Accession Number: 1982.220.8


Krishna, whose legend is told in Books Ten and Eleven of the great Hindu epic, the Bhagavata Purana, was threatened as a baby by the wicked tyrant Kamsa. To protect him, his parents, Vevaki and Vasudeva, hid him with a cowherd and his wife Yashoda. Krishna survived to become the hero of many well-loved stories, and is often represented as a young man or as a mischievous child.

Depictions of Yashoda holding her foster son Krishna are rare, especially in sculptural form. In this example, she is shown nursing the infant god, cradling his head with one hand while the other gathers him close. Yashoda's direct gaze makes this intimate and tender portrayal somewhat iconic.

The style and iconography of this sculpture suggest a provenance in the southern part of the subcontinent. However, the lack of precise stylistic parallels make dating difficult, and the current cataloguing in the fourteenth century remains tentative.