, Vishnu with attendants Enlarge 1 /1

On display on Level 1

Pala dynasty (8th-early 12th centuries) Vishnu with attendants early 12th century Place made: Shialdi, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Materials & Technique: sculptures, phyllite stone phyllite
Dimensions: 162.5 h x 80.0 w x 34.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1989
Accession No: NGA 89.1365
Provenance:
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • in Shialdi village, Dhaka, Bangladesh (then East Pakistan)
  • where it was bought by Dr David Nalin, 1967 or 1968
  • with Dr David Nalin, New York, 1969
  • who sold it through art dealer Peter Marks, New York
  • to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 1989 for USD 675,000

As Preserver of the Universe, the Hindu god Vishnu appears in one of his many forms whenever he is needed to restore order to the world. In this image, Vishnu is depicted as the cosmic monarch. He is flanked by his consort Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and beauty, and Sarasvati, goddess of arts and learning. Lakshmi holds a flywhisk while Sarasvati plays a stringed musical instrument. Denoting his divine status, the crowned Vishnu is represented with four arms, standing on a lotus. In his hands he holds a conch shell representing the power of creation; a mace to intimidate those who oppose the truth; and a discus, the symbol of destruction and cosmic order. His fourth hand is extended in a gesture of charity. Vishnu’s powerful eyes encourage an important aspect of Hindu image worship—darshan (seeing)—when the divinity and devotee exchange eye contact.

This sculpture was created during the Pala dynasty. Pala kings ruled most of Bihar and Bengal, now divided between Bangladesh and India, from the second part of the eighth century until the twelfth century. Pala art had a significant influence on the art of Tibet, Nepal and Southeast Asia.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

As preserver of the universe, the Hindu god Vishnu appears in one of his many forms whenever he is needed to restore order to the world. In this image, Vishnu is depicted as the cosmic monarch. He is flanked by his consort Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and beauty, and by Sarasvati, goddess of arts and learning. Lakshmi holds a flywhisk while Sarasvati plays a stringed musical instrument. Denoting his divine status, the crowned Vishnu is represented with four arms and standing on a lotus. In his hands he holds a conch shell representing the power of creation, a mace to intimidate those who oppose the truth, and a discus as the symbol of destruction and cosmic order. His fourth hand is extended in a gesture of charity. Vishnu’s powerful eyes encourage an important aspect of Hindu image worship—darshan (seeing)—when the divinity and devotee exchange eye contact.

This sculpture was created during the Pala dynasty. Pala kings ruled most of Bihar and Bengal, now divided between Bangladesh and India, from the second half of the eighth century until the twelfth century. Pala art had a significant influence on the art of Tibet, Nepal and Southeast Asia.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

The Hindu god Vishnu is here flanked on the left by his consort Lakshmi, Goddess of Prosperity and Beauty, holding a flywhisk and on the right by Sarasvati, Goddess of Arts and Learning with her stringed musical instrument.  Vishnu’s powerful eyes are reminders that the most important aspect of the worship of images in Hindu temples is seeing (darshan), when the god and devotee exchange eye contact. 

As Preserver of the Universe, Vishnu appears in one of his many forms whenever he is needed to solve a problem and restore order. He holds a discus, symbolising the power of destruction, a conch representing the power of creation, and a mace to intimidate those who oppose truth. The god's fourth hand is extended in a gesture of charity.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label