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Surreal Standing Vishnu Sculpture, Mathura, 5th cent CE, Gupta Era

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Vishnu (red sandstone). Gupta (mid. 5th century AD), Mathura, U.P. HxWxD (cm): 109x67x22. (Information from museum plaque.) National Museum, New Delhi.

Vishnu (red sandstone). Gupta (mid. 5th century AD), Mathura, U.P. HxWxD (cm): 109x67x22. (Information from museum plaque.) National Museum, New Delhi.

Mathura is a city in India. He is dressed in a be-jeweled Kirit Mukuta, an Ekavali (single beaded necklace), and another row of finely carved twisted pearls. A delicately carved Yajnopavita (sacred thread), Kundala (earrings) on his long earlobes, and armlets are among the other ornaments. Unfortunately, his arms and lower body are broken, but a Vanmala (garland) and a ski are visible on his arms.

armlets are a type of bracelet. His arms and lower body are broken, but there is a hint of a Varnmala (garland) on his arms and a finely carved lower garment. A large broken halo can also be seen behind his head. This representation of Vishnu is a magnificent example of Gupta art because of the softness of his curving body and the serene expression on his face.

We can see how the Indian sculptor, using a technique that dates back to the archaic times, makes the most of the contrasts between the intricately carved jewelry and armlets and the naked torso. This emphasis on the concept of the jeweled ornamentation becomes a kind of end in itself in Buddhist sculpture of the Pala Sena Period. The carving takes on a dry, mechanical quality that is completely lacking in Gupta Period statues, which always strike a perfect balance between the vast plastic realization of the form and the surface details, which serve to relieve the statues' almost overbearing heaviness through their delicacy of execution.

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