Wood; H. 38 7/8 in. (98.7 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1988 (1988.148.2)
South Asian temples were often conceived as the cosmic mountain abode of a god, and their exterior frequently inhabited by a profusion of auxiliary deities, including nature spirits. The lofty, multitiered wooden temples of the Kathmandu valley are of this type. Their roots are supported by cantilevered roof struts typically carved with figures of beautiful celestial maidens standing on the backs of male dwarf figures. These figure types hark back to yakshas and yakshis, ancient Indian incarnations of abundance. The female figures (yakshis) were often associated with trees, and their touch was believed to bring them into flower.
This temple strut is carved with a devata standing on a hermit sage. The hermit sage is seated on a stylized rock from which grows a flowering tree. The devata stands in an unusual pose, with left foot held at mid-hip level aided by a strap held in her right hand. The use of a strap seems to indicate that she is practicing a yogic posture.
This is a particularly fine example of early Nepalese wood carving. The volumes and poses of the figures are beautifully realized and the surface decorations skillfully rendered. The artist's juxtaposition of the angular forms of the lower third of the sculpture with the more curvilinear and sensuous forms of the upper parts is especially pleasing and inventive.