Exhibitions: Arts of Asia

Standing Female

Long before they made icons of Hindu or Buddhist deities, the artists of India created images of gods and goddesses that appear to have been associated with fertility and abundance. The identities of these deities are unknown—it is likely that they were called by many different names—but their representations share several features, most notably well-fed, voluptuous bodies and abundant jewelry. Most of the images of these deities are small, formed from clay, and were probably worshipped on domestic shrines or used as amulets. The female figures far outnumber the male.

These clay figurines appear in a wide variety of styles, reflecting differences in the tastes and modeling abilities of various regions and periods. This lively female figure comes from an area of Pakistan where merchants from around the Mediterranean had long maintained trading posts. The area, known in antiquity as Gandhara, developed an unusual hybrid style of art and culture that was at once Hellenic and Indic. The face and upper torso of this figure resemble those on terracotta images from the classical world, while her wide hips and ornate coiffure are more typical of Indian fertility goddesses.