|Sandstone female torso
India, Madhya Pradesh, 10th 11th century AD
A sandstone torso of a female deity, the sinuous body with prominent breasts clad in a clinging dhoti which is held up by a belt from which beaded necklaces are suspended. She has gathered the trailing end of her skirt in her right hand, which is placed near her hip. On her wrist, she wears a large bangle, on her fingers several rings, and an elaborate ornament encircles her upper arm. A further beaded necklace is suspended from her neck and her left hand holds a cup-shaped object.
It is complex to identify the deity represented in this sensuously carved sculpture of great quality and detail. Sensual female figures, adorned with jewellery and often posing as if dancing or playing instruments are not an uncommon feature in temple decoration. These female figures are often referred to as Vrishakas, a Sanskrit term meaning literally the personification of a tree, one of the most common motifs in ancient Indian art. To early Indians the spirit of the trees created the tone and shape of females. This tree/woman or yaskhi has different names as ashika-dohada, meaning flowering of the ashoka tree or surasundari, a celestial dancer. Yakshis are always seductive in pose and act as protectors against natural catastrophes. Their playful postures bring form and naturalness to the female figure, shalabhanjika, making her an essential part of nature 1 . Comparable sculptures are in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 2, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Avery Brundage Collection 3 , the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston4 , and in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 5.
1 For a discussion of this imagery, see: In the Image of Man (London 1982)