• Missing image
  • 1979.033-view-a.jpg

Celestial Entertainer

11th century

India, Rajasthan or Uttar Pradesh


H. 21 1/4 x W. 12 x D. 6 in. (54 x 30.48 x 15.24 cm)

Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.33

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Entertainers, particularly beautiful women, are among the most common images on Hindu temples. They entertain the gods and designate the area within as a special palace or heaven, where music and dance are available. Figures such as this celestial entertainer were placed in subsidiary locations on temple walls, where they functioned as attendants to the principal images, representations of the gods. This figure's broad features suggests the sculpture's origin in Rajasthan or Uttar Prades. She twists dramatically in a dance pose and lifts one hand above her head while placing the other (now missing) at her side. She wears a crown, armlet, earrings, two heavy necklaces as well as a girdle of beads around her waist and legs. The tree above her head bears fruit, which two small monkeys are eating. The shalabhanjika, the combination of a voluptuous woman and a tree, is one of the most enduring images in India and appears in Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain art, primarily as a symbol of fertility. The three-dimensionality of this image suggests that it may once have served as a bracket figure for a pillar, probably in the interior of a temple.