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2003/136/41 Figure of mounted Arjuna, hero of the Mahabharata epic, bronze, South India, Vijayanagara period, 1700-1799. Click to enlarge.

Indian bronze figure of Arjuna.

Made
This small bronze figure probably represents Arjuna, one of the five Pandava princes in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Arjuna was an archer of enormous prowess; during the battles in which the Pandavas battled their cousins the Kauravas for supremacy, the Hindu god Krishna acted as Arjuna's charioteer and advisor.

The figure is part of a collection of forty-one Indian, Nepalese and Southeast Asian bronze miniatures assembled by the donor. The figures were mostly made in India over a period spanning eleven hundred years, and were produced for use in temples or in household shrines and by pilgrims.

As an example of Hindu iconography, this image represents one of the worlds great and ancient religious traditions. Hinduism is as much a philosophy and culture as it is a religion, a rich and complex aggregate which has drawn on a collection of holy books and incorporated a wide range of influences since its origins around 4000 years ago. The multiple deities, demi-gods and heroes of the Hindu pantheon and Hindu literature reflect the syncretistic nature of Hinduism in their diverse forms and complex lineages, and are represented in a magnificent corpus of figurative sculptures, large and small.

These images were intended to remind people of spiritual truths and sacred stories and to function as aids to meditation. They follow forms and dimensions that are carefully prescribed for each deity, and all parts and attributes such as the position of the body, the emblems and ornaments, and the accompanying minor divinities have significance.

Summary

Object No.

2003/136/41

Object Statement

Figure of mounted Arjuna, hero of the Mahabharata epic, bronze, South India, Vijayanagara period, 1700-1799

Physical Description

Small statuette of Arjuna, fully clad and holding a bow and arrow, seated on a prancing horse on a lightly decorated flat rectangular base. On the ground before him is a small warrior figure wearing chain-mail, brandishing a sword and holding a shield in his left hand. The horse's forelegs rest on the shoulders of the warrior.

Dimensions

Height

75 mm

Width

60 mm

Depth

32 mm

Production

Made

Notes

The following characteristics of body position, attributes and dress are identifiable forms of Indian iconography and assist with identification and dating.

Arjuna is fully clothed with long coverings to the ankles, wrists and neck, suggesting light armour, and also appears to wear foot coverings. He wears a turban-like head covering with a feather in the front. Apart from the bow and arrow, which he holds in front of him, there is a long curved sword on the left hand side and a quiver attached to the waist belt on the right hand side. A strap from his belt passes over the right shoulder. The horse is caparisoned, wearing a saddle and decorative harness. The small warrior in front, although wearing chain mail, has bare feet; he holds a shield in his left hand and brandishes a sword in the right.

The statuette is bronze and most likely cast by the cire perdue method (lost wax). Each piece was cast individually and in South India were always solid. Sculptors adhered to a strict code of rules, measurements and proportions

History

Used

Notes

Small bronze figures like this, representing deities from the Hindu pantheon or the great Hindu epic poems, were made in large quantities throughout India for use in temples, in domestic shrines and by pilgrims.

Part of a collection of small bronze figures put together by the donor. Most of them portray a variety of deities from India's Hindu pantheon and heroes of the Indian epic poems the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. The donor purchased his first two pieces for this collection from Spink in London in 1968, and the rest from a variety of sources during the 1990s. This piece was acquired in December 1999 from Spink in London for 1,200 pounds.

Source

Credit Line

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Alastair Morrison, 2003

Acquisition Date

13 October 2003

Cite this Object

Harvard

Indian bronze figure of Arjuna. 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 26 September 2020, <https://ma.as/319645>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/319645 |title=Indian bronze figure of Arjuna. |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=26 September 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Incomplete

This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.