A large and important bronze figure of Parvati
SOUTH INDIA, CHOLA PERIOD, CIRCA 1100
Is how the auction house describes her. Her base price was set for $800,000 – $1,200,000 and she was auctioned for $ 963,750
There is video link describing her and assigning a 11th Century date for her.
Chola bronzes of this height /size and beauty are comparable to the great bronzes just post the Sembian Madevi era and closer to Sri Raja Raja and Rajendra period.
The provenance and buyer information is scarce –
Collection of Ariane Dandois, London, acquired in Geneva, 16 March 1977
C. Vogel, “Global Treasure Trove,” New York Times Magazine, 1 March 1987, pp. 62-66
A casual check reveals nothing about the said bronze in the quoted magazine article.
It would be interesting for readers to read more about the previous owner but that is not our objective.
Now comes the interesting part.
In 1944 there is this interesting article titled
A Southern Bronze
By K. B. IYER
One of such pieces is Gauri from the Kailasanath temple, Conjeeveram, now in the collection of Ramgopal, the well-known dancer.
Both tradition and stylistic features distinguish it as an early Chola work of probably the 10th century
Gauri is the Gracious Mother of the Universe, the Better-half of Siva, half-female half-male (Ardha-nariswara). In love and in devotion unexcelled even among the gods, She is the supreme arche-type of conjugal felicity. When love’s darts bruise young maidens’ hearts, their secret prayers are turned to her. It is she who protects them from every shoal and storm on the unchartered sea of married life. Just as Siva as Nata-raja symbolises the cosmic law of rhythm, Parvati in her aspect as Gauri symbolises the universal and eternal female instinct of yearning devotion, aspiration and concern for the male. Isn’t this figure instinct with that poignant feeling which makes the contemplation of beauty a haunting delight?
On first look they look similar, lets analyse them
There is a problem in the mentioned dimensions.
The 1944 article mentions ” Exclusive of the pedestal which is 9 inches, the figure is 26 inches in height” whereas the auction house measures it as ” 33 1/8 in. (84.2 cm.) high ” – however, the stylistic identifications match to a T.
It is pertinent to note that the Great Chola ruler Raja Raja visited Kanchi Kailasantha temple and was awe struck by it and some consider it to be his inspiration for building the Tanjore Bridhadeshwara temple. A further study of the Chola inscriptions could reveal if this bronze is indeed his gift.
This is obviously the same bronze from the famed Kailasantha temple of Kanchi which somehow landed up with famous dancer Sri Ram Gopal OBE and was with him atleast till 1944.
He passed away in UK in 2003.
How the Gauri went out of India, was sold in Geneva and acquired by the prev owner should be easily available to the auction house. A simple google search reveals the 1944 article and photos. . Considering the current cloud over Chola bronzes, am sure there was enough due deligence done and provenances verified to accord this Bronze ” A large and important bronze figure of Parvati” Tag. If so why was her past erased?