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Vishnu on Garuda

Asian Art

This terracotta panel once decorated the exterior of a brick temple. It shows Vishnu riding Garuda into battle, blowing his conch and holding what appears to be an archer’s bow. Even in its current condition, the relief captures the dynamism of the scene. Garuda has been represented in a kind of shorthand, with just a head and wings. The identity of the smaller figure—also apparently riding on Garuda and preparing to shoot an arrow—remains unclear.
MEDIUM Red terracotta
DATES 5th century
PERIOD Gupta Period
DIMENSIONS 12 1/4 x 14 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (31.1 x 37.5 x 19.1 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Asian Art
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
ACCESSION NUMBER 73.124
CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner
RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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CAPTION Vishnu on Garuda, 5th century. Red terracotta, 12 1/4 x 14 3/4 x 7 1/2 in. (31.1 x 37.5 x 19.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. Bertram H. Schaffner, 73.124. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 73.124_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 73.124_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION In a partially damaged relief tile, the Hindu god Vishnu descends from the heavens to do battle, riding the winged man-eagle Garuda. The god once had four arms; both of his right arms are now void. In his left hands he holds an archer's bow and he lifts a conch shell to his mouth, preparing to blow it like a horn. Below him is a smaller attendant holding a bow. The tile is void on the viewer's left. From Accession Card: Vishnu, the Hindu preserver of the universe, rides here upon his eagle mount, Garuda, shown in anthropomorphic form with widespread wings. Vishnu is four-armed and holds a bow in his upper left hand and a conch to his lips with his lower left; the two right hands are now missing. An attendant, who also has a bow in his outstretched arm, is at the diety's left. The Brooklyn panel is crafted in the regional style of Mathura, particularly in the modeling of the figures and in the Gupta-style curled hair, here articulated by stamped circles over the wig-like headdresses and by the circular punch marks over the wing and in the lower right corner. As in the other Gupta terracotta reliefs, the hands are summarily modelled, but the heads are fully rendered, with arched brows, pierced eyes, and structured cheekbones - all of which lend expression to the group. references: Poster 1973, no. 52; Pal 1978a, p. 81, no. 28; Banerjee 1985; Huntington 1985, p. 216, fig. 10.38. Condition: losses at left, so right arms of two left figures are void. Part of Vishnu's headdress is also lost. Chip from upper right corner.
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