Nrtyadevi, Goddess of Dance

Artist/maker unknown, Nepalese

Geography:
Probably made in Bhaktapur, Nepal, Asia

Period:
Malla Dynasty (1200-1769)

Date:
Mid- 15th century

Medium:
Wood with polychrome decoration

Dimensions:
43 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 9 inches (110.5 x 31.8 x 22.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
South Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
2000-7-4

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with the Stella Kramrisch Fund, 2000

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Label:
Nrtyadevi, Goddess of Dance, stands in a classic Nepalese dance posture-legs crossed, torso swaying, hands poised in graceful, reassuring gestures. Her costume displays some of the hallmarks of Malla fashion. Densely patterned floral medallions cover her form-fitting shirt, while a striped skirt clings to her legs. Draped across her thighs is a flowery sash, and three pendants that appear frozen in mid-swing hang from her waistband. A beaded headdress supports her heavy disk-and-peacock earrings. Ornate bead and link necklaces, bracelets, armlets, and anklets complete her outfit. Such textiles and jewelry reflect the wealth accumulated in Nepal from trade between Tibet and India during the Malla period.

Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Wood is a significant medium in Nepalese sculpture and architecture. This graceful image of a standing female dancer not only is a superb example of the woodcarver’s art but also retains an extraordinary amount of the polychrome decoration. The sculpture probably once formed a pair with another, and the mirror-image figures most likely would have flanked a larger, central deity.

    The dancer sways in tribhanga, or triple-bend position. She crosses her right leg behind her left, both slightly bent, with right foot raised. Her left hand is held up, palm outward, with thumb and forefinger meeting in a dance posture indicating benediction, while her right hand hangs downward, palm toward her knee, in gajahasta (the elephant-hand position). The skin of her face, arms, and feet is white, creating a stark contrast with the bright red henna on the palms of her hands and soles of her feet. She wears a closely fitting, short-sleeved red upper garment marked with green and white roundels, which differs from the striped pattern of her lower garment and floral sash looped from hip to hip. Three pieces of fabric fall from her pearl and petal belt, each ending in a pointed half-flower motif common in the sculpture and painting of fifteenth-century Nepal. Around her neck she wears a series of chains; wide bangles and upper-arm bands adorn her wrists and arms; and large double- circle earrings topped by leonine kirtimukhas (faces of glory) in half-beaded circles frame her face. Her hair is covered with a beaded net and topped by a lotiform headpiece. She has the wide eyes that were typical of the period, especially for subsidiary sculptural figures, a delicate mouth, and a generous but elegant high-bridged nose.

    With its sharp features yet flowing form and its rich colors, this exceptional sculpture embodies the characteristics of contemporaneous scroll painting from Nepal and central Tibet, one of the strengths of the Museum’s Himalayan collection. Darielle Mason, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 18.