India, Tamil Nadu
Chola period, early 11th century
Copper alloy
H. 35 in. (88.9 cm); 1979.19

Artist Comments

Bjorn Amelan and Bill T. Jones

Confidence--that is the overriding impression given by this particular eleventh-century Chola-period Parvati. As she was certainly an attendant figure in an ensemble that featured her divine consort, Shiva, performing his dance of bliss, Parvati here embodies her role of showgirl with supreme confidence.

Her large, wide eyes and subtle smile suggest contentment and approval at the spectacle of her husband's dancing. Sturdy strength enlivens her amazing anatomy.Her boyish shoulders soften into firm shapely arms that taper into elongated gestures of grace.

The copper alloy out of which the goddess is fashioned embues the gravity defying perfection of her breasts with the power of two vibrating cymbals. The nipples mesmerize with their intense focus projected outwards like a pair of all seeing eyes. For all their wonder, the breasts cannot hold the giddy descend of our gaze as it travels down the coastline of her impossibly fine waist delivering us to the plush expanse of her undulating hips.

With languor and sway, Pavati is marking time-both musical and cosmic-with her magnificent hips and ass. She is confident in her role as spiritual complement to one of the pantheon's most complex deities-Shiva-an entity who, when not immersed in an eons- long trance of introspection, is performing a fearsome dance that signals the destruction of the universe. This delectable showgirl with the calm smile, elegant demeanor, and swaying hips is completely secure. She knows the nature of form and its transformation. Within her comely incarnation, there are many others. One of these is Kali, the monstrous witch, wearing a belt of sculls, whose womb spits out life even as her hideous tongue drips blood and her jaws chomp human flesh.

But here, this beauty projects a confidant, dangerous allure. "Come dance with me, with us"--she seems to say--"if you dare."

I have ever marvelled at a common principle that connects women and bronze or sculpted goddesses in India. They express identical body language. Both have the knowledge of how to break the verticality, the linearity of the body through the principle of three curves (tribhanga). It is a special way, technique, of breaking the bodyline and shifting the weight, a recognizable physical attribute throughout the subcontinent. Parvati is also everywoman.

Francesco Clemente