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Lot 274 - FAS0624

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Lot details

Identified by his characteristic boots, breast plate, and tall cylindrical crown, while wielding a beaming lotus in each hand, the stele is devoted to the Sun God Surya, whose cult at one time rivaled that of Shiva and Vishnu, and who became prominently incorporated into the iconographic program of the latter's temples.

From an old French private collection. Hôtel Drouot, S.C.P. Maurice Rheims et René Laurin, expert Michel Beurdeley, Art de la Chine et d’ Orient, 2nd-3rd March 1972, lot 76, illustrated on the back cover of the auction catalog. A noted French collector, acquired from the above and thence by descent in the family. A copy of a letter written and signed by Amina Okada, Conservateur au Musée National des Arts Asiatiques - Guimet, dated 22 January 1995, confirming the dating above, accompanies this lot. Copies of the front and back cover of the auction catalog Art de la Chine et d’ Orient, 2nd-3rd March 1972, the latter with an image of the present lot, also accompany this lot.
Condition: Good condition, commensurate with age. Extensive weathering, some wear, losses and structural cracks, signs of erosion, minor old repairs and fills. The proper left upper corner section broken off and reattached.

Weight: ca. 225 kg
Dimensions: Height 150 cm, Width 51 cm, Depth 22 cm

The Brahmanic god Surya is dressed according to traditional conventions that depict him as a king. His 'northern' garb is thought to resemble that of Indo-Scythian tribesmen, like the Kushans, who ruled Northern India in the first centuries of the common era. It is also thought to reflect the influence of Iranian religious ideas on Indian sun worship. (Rosenfield, The Arts of India and Nepal, Boston, 1966, page 43)

The monolithic stele depicts a full entourage accompanying the solar deity, with his wife, Ushas (the Dawn) standing immediately before him as the herald of each new day. On either side of his feet are Surya's clerk and measurer, Pingala and Danda, standing with complementary tribhangha poses. Immediately flanking them are a pair of anthropomorphized horses, offering gestures of reassurance: possibly ayudha-purushas of his chariot's steeds. Above Surya are Usha and Pratyusha, two archers defending dawn and dusk from the darkness.

Surya's bold lotus blossoms and crisp halo, as Dye once deftly noted, “suggest both the sun itself and the boundless life it nurtures” (Dye III, The Arts of India, Richmond, 2001, p. 136). The softly modeled facial features of Surya with lightly arching brows and narrow prominent lips, harkening back to Gupta prototypes, point to the regional style of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. So too does the buff-to-reddish colored sandstone, the less extravagant array of necklaces and regalia (in comparison with neighboring Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh), and the treatment of the halo with its distinct triangular sunbeams, bordered by a plain circular rim.

Literature comparison:
Compare the aforementioned various idioms with examples attributed to Uttar Pradesh in Desai & Mason (editors), Gods, Guardians, and Lovers, New York, 1993, p. 187-188, 244-247, and 262-263, nos. 28, 62, and 70.

Auction result comparison:
Type: Related
Auction: Bonhams New York, 19 March 2018, lot 3081
Price: USD 492,500 or approx. EUR 549,000 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: A large sandstone stele of Surya, Northern India, circa 11th century
Expert remark: Compare the closely related subject, material, manner of carving, and height (152 cm), although the stele is considerably wider and more complete than the present lot.


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