Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Vishnu Accompanied by Lakshmi and Sarasvati

Pala period
12th century
Black phyllite
H. 47 in. (119.4 cm); W. 25 in. (63.5 cm); D. 9 in. (22.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Emily M. Goldman, 1991
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 238
Vishnu stands in perfect symmetry (samapada), the protector of cosmic order. In an iconographic convention unique to medieval Bengal, he is accompanied by the goddesses Lakshmi, holding a fly-whisk (camara) and lotus (padma), and Sarasvati, playing a vina, rather than by his wives Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. He is also closely associated with Priti, the earth goddess, who often appears between his feet. The goddesses in turn are flanked by two miniature figures, the male personifications of Vishnu’s weapons, the conch (sankha) and the discus (cakra). Vishnu himself is four armed and displays his principal attributes, the discus, conch, club (gada), and lotus (padma), and he wears both a sacred cord (upavita) and a long garland (vanamala), which hangs to his knees. The richly elaborated backplate features mythical animals and celestial celebrants presided over by a protective kirtimukha face.
Paul E. Manheim New York ; his daughter Emily M. Goldman New York (until 1991; donated to MMA)
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