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Figurine of a yakshi or courtesan

India, Western Deccan, probably Bhokardan, Maharashtra

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 999

This ivory figurine of a bejeweled and garlanded woman was recovered during excavation of a merchant’s villa at Pompeii, Italy, in 1938. Similar to sandstone versions that bracket the first-century gateways at the Sanchi stupa, the figure has clear Indian origins. In 1973, a companion figurine was excavated in central India, making clear the region's connections with the export trade of Indian ivory to the Roman Mediterranean. This figurine would have had great appeal in early India, either as a representation of an ideal woman or a courtesan, such as those celebrated in contemporaneous Indian literature. It evidently found a ready market among the wealthy citizens of Pompeii.

Figurine of a yakshi or courtesan, Ivory, India, Western Deccan, probably Bhokardan, Maharashtra

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