The Sculptures page contains 68 images of works from the world-renowned Norton Simon
collection of sculptures from South Asia and Southeast Asia, along with some Late Medieval,
Renaissance, and Modern sculptures, and includes a few images from the separate Rodin page.

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Goodhue Memorial Flagpole X2639

The Goodhue Memorial Flagpole is on the NE corner of Orange Grove and Colorado Blvd., just outside the grounds of the Norton Simon Museum. Originally erected in the center of the intersection in 1927, it was moved to the northeast corner after it was declared to be a traffic hazard after an auto accident in 1948. Designed by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue and executed by sculptor Lee Oscar Lawrie, the Goodhue Memorial Flagpole honors those residents of Pasadena who served in World War I, and it is the location where most network coverage of the Rose Parade originates (with the flagpole occasionally in the frame).


Antefix with Five-Headed Serpent 3653


Column from a Buddhist Stupa 3809

Antefix with Five-headed Serpent, 1075-1125, Thailand, Khorat Plateau (?), sandstone.

Symbols of abundance and fertility, multi-headed rearing serpents (nagas) are common decorative motifs found on both Hindu and Buddhist temples in mainland Southeast Asia. The central serpent of this antefix holds a garland of jewels in its mouth as both an offering to the icon housed within and as a reminder of the merit one can achieve through worship at the temple. This type of inward-leaning antefix was introduced to terminate roof tiles on Khmer temples around 1100.

Column from a Buddhist Stupa,1st century, India: Uttar Pradesh, Mathura, sandstone.

This column is carved with scenes on two sides, suggesting that it was used as a corner post in a railing or gateway of a Buddhist monument. Of the eight low-relief panels, the lower six depict couples with floral offerings. The top right panel contains a knot of serpents in front of a stupa, a hemispherical funerary mound symbolic of the Buddha as well as the cosmic mountain. The top left panel features an empty bed strewn with flowers, representing Buddha Shakyamuni's death, or great release from the physical world (mahaparinirvana), as witnessed by two of his disciples.


Goddess Tara 3656


Bodhisattva 3674

Goddess Tara, 1275-1325, Nepal or Tibet, gilt-copper alloy with semiprecious stones and pigment.

A savior deity, Tara is the female counterpart of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Tara is an embodiment of feminine grace, compassion and action. In both Nepal and Tibet she has enjoyed great popularity. This impressive sculpture is one of the largest and finest metal images of the goddess known. There are several aspects with different colors (in some schools there are 21 Taras), each aspect with its own characteristics. Tara is a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism.

An exceptional, nearly 5 foot tall, 8th century bronze Tara from Sri Lanka is in the British Museum.

Bodhisattva, 13th century, Nepal, gilt-copper alloy with semiprecious stones.

Bodhisattvas are Buddhist deities who have attained enlightenment but have postponed Buddhahood in order to aid others in their quest to reach salvation. Bodhisattva imagery was incredibly popular in Nepal, reflecting the importance of Mahayana Buddhism, which encourages its practitioners to emulate and become bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas can be distinguished from the Buddha by their often luxurious garments, opulent jewelry and ornate crowns.


Treasure Chest 3662

Treasure Chest, 18th-19th century, Tibet, gilt copper repoussé inlaid with turquoise.

This impressive chest was likely used by high-ranking monks or a noble family to store manuscripts and other ritual objects. It is embellished with both Hindu deities, including Bhairava and Durga, as well as Buddhist divinities such as Avalokiteshvara and the Buddha. The mixed iconography as well as the technique suggest that it was made along the Nepal-Tibet border when Hinduism and Buddhism flourish side by side. The center of the lid depicts an esoteric form of Avalokiteshvara, the Hindu goddess Durga is on the side of the chest (note the dancing skeleton to her right, our left).


Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara 3798


Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara HS7563 LG

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, 8th century, Thailand: Buriram Province, Prakhon Chai, bronze.

This large, exquisite bronze sculpture was part of a cache of nearly 300 Buddhist bronzes found in 1964, in a burial chamber of Prasat Hin Khao Plai Bat II in Prakon Chai, a small village in what is today northeastern Thailand. The objects in the cache were probably cast in neighboring Cambodia, thus they are an example of Khmer art of the pre-Angkor Wat period.

At the time of its discovery, the sculpture was found wrapped in textiles, suggesting that its burial was purposeful and had sacred significance. Although the figure is missing his attributes, which were detachable and have become lost in time, the image of a meditating Amitabha Buddha seated in the crown of jata (matted hair) identifies him as the Buddhist savior deity Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, 14th century, Nepal or Tibet, gilt copper.

While the identity of this figure as the Buddhist deity Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is without doubt, since the left hand holds a lotus flower, its place of origin is uncertain. Most of its stylistic features relate to other Nepalese examples, such as the treatment of the figure’s ornate crown and garments; however, a few elements indicate that it may have been cast in Tibet in a Newar workshop. Avalokiteshvara is the patron deity of Tibet (the Dalai Lama is considered to be an emanation of Avalokiteshvara). The figure’s robust proportions as well as the mechanical rendering of the robe’s cascading pleats are uncharacteristic of Nepalese bronzes. Instead, figural sculptures from Nepal tend to be slender, with pinched waists and flowing garments.

Avalokiteshvara is one of the more widely revered bodhisattvas, who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, and
is variably depicted as male or female in different cultures, and with different origin stories depending on the source.


Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara 3684

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, 14th century, Nepal, bronze with semiprecious stones.

Avalokiteshvara (Avalokiteśvara), the bodhisattva of compassion, can be identified by his primary attribute of a lotus flower. Although the lotus is missing from this finely cast bronze, the remnant of a lotus stalk which is attached to the outside of his left arm offers a clue to his identity. This figure has several salient features, including an animal skin wrapped around his left forearm and an elaborately bejeweled tiara and earrings.

Avalokiteśvara is an important deity in Tibetan Buddhism, where traditions assert that he is actually the Brahma that convinced Sakyamuni Buddha to teach rather than stay in seclusion after his enlightenment. Avalokiteśvara then became one of the two major disciples of the Buddha from the Deva realms (with Indra). Some scholars suggest that Avalokiteśvara is an absorption by Buddhism of the Hindu deities Shiva, Vishnu or both. Modern Japanese scholarship of Buddhist scripture, Tamil literary sources and field surveys propose that the home of Avalokiteśvara, Mount Potalaka, is actually Pothigai Malai in the Ghats of Tamil Nadu, which has been sacred place since prehistory and is the source of the Tamil language. This area was mixed Hindu and Buddhist from the 3rd century BC, and these mixed Hindu and Buddhist cults culminated in the creation of Avalokiteśvara.


Bodhisattva Maitreya 3784


Bodhisattva Maitreya HS7607

Bodhisattva Maitreya, 2nd-3rd century, Pakistan: Ancient Gandhara, schist.

Maitreya is a bodhisattva who is regarded as a future Buddha and successor to the historic Sakyamuni Buddha. Maitreya is typically depicted as seated, but Gandhara was widely known for production of standing Buddhist sculptures during this period.

Made in Gandhara, in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan, this sculpture reflects the international style that was present in this ancient kingdom. Gandhara was located along the Silk Road, the primary mercantile route that connected the East to the West. Buddhist images from this region were influenced by Greco-Roman examples. This was created during the Golden Age of Gandhara which began about 75 AD, after the Parthian dynasty fell to the Kushans. The great Kushan king Kanisha (128-151) was a major patron of the Buddhist faith, and during this period Gandhara became a Holy Land of Buddhism. Standing Buddhist sculptures created in the Greco-Buddhist style in Gandhara are among the earliest anthropomorphic Buddhist representations.

The ushnisha or cranial protuberance of this Maitreya is interpreted as a luscious chignon, similar to those used for images of Greek gods and goddesses. The figure wears two necklaces one of which has a charm depicting Poseidon, a god with Greek origins. This suggests that there was a certain degree of religious tolerance in Gandhara at the time of this sculpture’s making. Moreover, the inclusion of this charm along with the figure’s shoes and the relaxed manner in which he wears his robe, suggests that images of male deities were modeled after kings.


Bodhisattva Manjusri HS7590 LG

Bodhisattva Manjusri, 800-850, India: Kashmir, bronze inlaid with silver and copper.

Manjusri, the bodhisattva of transcendent wisdom, stands confidently with his peacock companion, who looks up adoringly at his master. In this Indian representation, Manjusri is portrayed as a handsome young god whose right hands exhibit the gesture of charity and hold a rosary and three jewels, while his left hands hold a manuscript, a flowering lotus and a fruit. The elaborate tiara with floral crests, the multiple necklaces and the garland reaching nearly to his feet are all typical of Kashmiri sculptures.

In Tibet, Manjusri manifests in a number of Tantric forms, some symbolizing the union of form and spirit, matter and energy and in his wrathful manifestation, Death.

Manjusri, known in China as Wenshu, has been associated with Wutai Shan, one of the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism in China since the early days, and in the 16th century, Nurhaci, a Ming-era military chieftain in Manchuria and the founder of what became the Chinese imperial Qing Dynasty, reunified Jurchen tribes and named them after Manjusri, calling them the Manchu.

In Esoteric Buddhism, which had only been developing for about 200 years at the time this sculpture was made, Manjusri is a meditational deity considered to be a fully enlightened Buddha. In this Esoteric Buddhist form, Manjusri is depicted as a male bodhisattva wielding a flaming sword in his right hand.


Buddha Vajradhara 3669


Buddha Vajradhara HS7569

Primordial Buddha Vajradhara, 15th century, Tibet, bronze.

The primordial Buddha, the Dharmakaya (reality body) of the Trikaya doctrine, embodying ultimate emptiness, the principle of pure enlightenment and the supreme essence of all Buddhas, from which were manifested the Five Wisdom Buddhas, including Amitabha and Vairocana. Vajradhara is literally the “bearer of the thunderbolt”, and is typically adorned with ornaments. This statue can be recognized as Vajradhara by the vajra (thunderbolt or diamond) and ghanta (bell) that he holds at his chest, which symbolize his indestructibility. A delicate halo composed of scrolling vegetation surrounds his serene form.

Vajradhara is the highest deity in the Buddhist pantheon, and in the Tibetan schools (and many others), Vajradhara is the realization of the ultimate state of enlightenment. This is the single form, the first of two forms (the second is locked in an embrace with Saki). Vajradhara sits in meditation, with the bell in his left hand and the vajra in his right, with hands crossed in the Diamond mudra, representing the coexistence of the two aspects of one cosmic world (Diamond and Matrix).

A number of interesting Buddhist sculptures and Temple architecture are in the Japan Portfolio section.


Buddha and Adorants on Cosmic Mountain 1432

Buddha and Adorants on the Cosmic Mountain, c. 700, India: Kashmir, bronze with silver and copper inlay.

This masterpiece of Indian metal sculpture is one of the most sumptuous Buddhist altarpieces to have survived from Kashmir. Buddha Shakyamuni sits in the meditation posture on a thick cushion covered with lavish carpets. Beneath him is a rocky formation divided into three realms (animal, human and celestial, bottom to top), probably intended to represent the historical Buddha as a transcendental figure seated on the cosmic mountain Meru, which is considered to be the center of the universe.

The sculptor executed the cushion on which the Buddha sits using silver and copper inlays to create pearl and flower roundel motifs on the front, and different floral roundels with boldly outlined petals on the sides. The top of the cushion is also finely decorated with roundels and arabesque-like motifs. Small copper inlays were also used on both side edges and on top of the cushion. This unique style is an aesthetic marvel and a technical feat of casting, and is very similar to that used on a Buddha in the Potala Palace in Lhasa and another Buddha from the fortress-monastery of Dangkar, both of which also have the same eyes made of silver inlays and similar fleshy cheeks and hands. On all three, the symmetrically folded garment is draped over the left shoulder. These three sculptures were without a doubt cast by the same artistan.


Siddharta Meditating below Jambu Tree 1419

Siddhartha Meditating Below the Jambu Tree, 3rd century, Pakistan: Ancient Gandhara, schist.

As a young prince, Siddhartha (the given name of Buddha) was taken into the fields to witness a plowing contest. He observed men sweating and exerting themselves as well as birds swooping down from the sky devouring insects. He soon became overwhelmed by these events, as they reflected the misery of human life and the inevitability of death. He left the contest and wandered until he found a rose apple or black plum (jambu) tree. He sat beneath this tree and entered into a trance. This event was a precursor to his subsequent meditation under the bodhi tree. Created during the Golden Age of ancient Gandhara.


Reliquaries Multiple Buddhas and Stupa 3764

Reliquary with Multiple Buddhas, 13th-14th century, Thailand: Lop Buri (?), bronze.
Reliquary in the Form of a Stupa, 14th-19th century, Sri Lanka: Kandy period, copper alloy.

The reliquary on the left is a Khmer eight-sided open structure with Buddhas on each facet.

The reliquary on the right is in the form of a Dagoba, a Sinhalese-style stupa from the island of Sri Lanka. The architectural stupas in Sri Lanka were the largest brick structures known to the pre-modern world, and this stupa is a representation of one of the common forms. At the base are the three berms, above which is the dome (bell-shaped in this representation, but usually a hemispheric dome in architecture) which houses relics. Above the dome is the Tee cube, which also enshrines relics, followed by a Cylindrical neck (sometimes carved with deities), a Conical spire, and the Kotha or Silumina, which is a metal pinnacle.


Shivalingam with Four Faces 1437

Shivalingam with Four Faces, c. 900, India: Uttar Pradesh, sandstone.

The Sanskrit word "linga" literally means "sign" or "gender," and the Hindu god Shiva is commonly worshiped in this form. This elaborate lingam is carved with four heads, which face in the four cardinal directions. A fifth head is implicit in the smooth dome of the lingam and symbolizes the ultimate and abstract form of the supreme being. Shiva's cosmogonic aspects are both male and female, angry and benign. In traditional Indian society, the linga is seen as a symbol of the energy and potential of Shiva.


Chamunda 1447


Doorway River Goddess Ganga Amorous Scenes 1446

Chamunda, 10th century, India: Uttaranchal, Almora, schist.

Chamunda is a fearsome aspect of Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother and one of the seven Matrikas (mother goddesses). She is also one of the chief Yoginis, a group of sixty-four or eighty-one Tantric goddesses, who are attendants of the warrior goddess Durga. The name is a combination of Chanda and Munda, two monsters whom Chamunda killed. She is closely associated with Kali, another fierce aspect of Devi. The goddess is worshiped by ritual animal sacrifices along with offerings of wine, and in ancient times, human sacrifices were also offered. Note the severed heads, dagger, mace and other objects in the multiple arms of this menacing three-eyed goddess.

Doorway with River Goddess Ganga and Amorous Scenes, c. 1100, India: Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh, sandstone.

It is customary for Hindu temples to have richly carved figural surrounds on all three sides of the main entrance, both doorjambs and the lintel. The panels generally include the personifications of the two sacred rivers, the Ganges and Yamuna, and amorous Mithuna (or Maithuna) couples, a Sanskrit term for Tantric sexual union in a ritual context.


Goddess Tara HS7611


Jina Ajitanatha and Divine Assembly HS7603

Goddess Tara, late 9th century, India: Bihar, schist.

The Buddhist deity Tara is the goddess of compassion and action, who aids devotees in overcoming personal difficulties. The inscription inside her halo is the Buddhist creed, which reads "[Buddha] has revealed the cause of those phenomena which spring from a cause and also [the means of] their cessation. So says the Great Monk." Tara, holding a lotus, is considered the female aspect of the Universe, and in some aspects as a Mother Goddess. Tara is also a Tantric deity and a Hindu goddess.

Jina Ajitanatha and His Divine Assembly, 1062, India: Gujarat, white marble with traces of pigment.

Because he wears clothing, this Jina can be associated with the Shvetambara (white-clad) order of Jainism. The inscription identifies him as Ajitanatha, the second of the twenty-four liberated teachers revered by all Jains. He stands in the conventional body-abandonment pose, in which his arms hang to the sides without touching his body. He is surrounded by a host of deities and celestial attendants, while the devout donors are seated at his feet. Jainism is an ancient Indian religion prescribing a path of equality between all forms of life and nonviolence to all living beings, and is one of the oldest religions on Earth.


Stele Trancendental Buddhas and Goddesses 3621


Stele Vishnu and Other Hindu Deities 3631

Stele with Transcendental Buddhas and Goddesses, c. 1050-1100, India: West Bengal or Bangladesh, chlorite.

This is a rare image of one of the five transcendental Buddhas of the Vajrayana pantheon. He holds attributes of both Vajrasatva and Manjusri, two other important Buddhist deities, and is accompanied by four goddesses. Noteworthy are the multiple heads and arms, which signify the figure’s cosmic nature, and the leaping tongues of flames in the background.

Stele with Vishnu and Other Hindu Deities, c. 1100, India: Uttar Pradesh, sandstone with indigo pigments.

This remarkable stele is dedicated to the great Hindu god Vishnu, the preserver and protector of the universe. He stands in the frontal samapada posture, holding four of his primary attributes: a large club and a solar disc or wheel in his upper hands and a rosary and conch shell in his lower hands. These symbolic emblems and weapons indicate his divine status, his association with the sun and earth and his supreme knowledge and power. He is surrounded by many of his other avatars, such as Narasimha the man-lion, located to the right of the conch, and Varaha the boar, to the left of the club. Other gods and goddesses are also represented, such as Brahma and Shiva with their spouses in the upper corners, and the nine planetary deities at the top of the arch. The blue paint is most likely modern. More on Vishnu and Shiva below.


Cosmic Form of Krishna 3748


Cosmic Form of Krishna HS7536

Cosmic Form of Krishna, 15th century, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

This ten-armed image of Krishna is an unusual depiction of the god. The wheel and the conch shell in his rear set of hands identify him as an incarnation of Vishnu. His two front hands are positioned as if holding a flute, a common portrayal of a young Krishna. However, the additional sets of arms are not often seen in images made during the reign of the Cholas. It is likely that this figure was made during the reign of the Chola rulers’ successors in Tamil Nadu, the Vijayanagara monarchs.

Krishna (meaning black or dark, also translated as all-attractive) is a Hindu deity most often recognized as an avatar of Vishnu, who also appears in Buddhism. His life is detailed in the Mahabharata, the longest epic poem ever written (200,000 verses).


Goddess Parvati 3731


Goddess Parvati HS7531 LG

Goddess Parvati, c. 1000, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

This image of Parvati is unusual for its voluptuous appearance. The figure’s full breasts, gently swelling abdomen, and powerful thighs are much less stylized than those in other images of the goddess. The artist has modified Parvati’s usual posture in order to accommodate this ample form. Not only is her hip thrust to the side, but she appears to bend forward slightly at the waist, as if engaging the viewer.

Parvati is the Hindu goddess of love, fertility and devotion, and a mother goddess with many attributes and aspects, each with a different name. She is the wife of the Hindu deity Shiva (destroyer, recycler and regenerator of all life in the Universe), daughter of King Parvat (lord of the mountains and the personification of the Himalayas), and mother of elephant-headed Ganesha.


Shiva as Destroyer of Three Cities HS7529 LG


Divine Hero Rama or Lakshmana 3697

Shiva as Destroyer of Three Cities, c. 925, India: Tamil Nadu, Tandantottam, bronze.

In his iconic form as Shiva the Destroyer of the Three Cities (Tripurantaka), the god is depicted in a heroic stance, with his legs bent in a pose called dvibhanga. Originally, Shiva’s outstretched hands would have held a bow and arrow. According to legend, demons created havoc in three celestial cities. The demons could only be destroyed with a single arrow when the cities converged, which happened rarely. Gods and humans pleaded with Shiva to restore order by destroying the demons. When the cities converged, Shiva shot his arrow, setting all three cities, and the demons, on fire.

Shiva (the Auspicious One) is a Hindu deity regarded as one of the primary forms of God. Attributes shown on this sculpture include the third eye on his forehead and the snake Vasuki peeking over his shoulder.

The Divine Hero, Rama or Lakshmana, 11th century, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

It is uncertain whether this figure represents Rama or his brother Lakshmana. The hands once held a bow in the left hand and an arrow in the right. Some scholars identify this as Lakshmana because of the youthful appearance, others consider it to be Rama because of the small triangular mark above the right nipple. Rama is the 7th avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, and the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, in which he defeats Ravana, the ten-headed Rakshasa (demon) king of Lanka who had kidnapped his wife Sita, an incarnation of Lakshmi. After a long search for Sita, in a colossal series of battles of demons and magical beings and tremendously destructive weapons, Rama kills Ravana and frees Sita.


Sita Rama’s Wife 1424


Rama or Pandava Hero 1384

Sita (?), c. 1100-1150, India: Tamil Nadu, granite.

The heroine of the epic Ramayana and the wife of Rama, Sita is also worshiped as the divinity presiding over agriculture, and is the personification of the Earth’s fertility and a child of the Earth Goddess. The lotus held in her left hand is the ubiquitous emblem for a goddess in Tamil Nadu. The sculptor of this remarkable piece employed considerable restraint in the carving, as the ornamentation and simplified garments do not overwhelm the rounded, sensuous forms of her body.

Hindu God Rama or Pandava Hero (?), India: Rajasthan, Harshagiri (?), c. 956, sandstone.

Indian heroes are often identified by the presence of bows and arrows, symbols of valor and military skill. This monumental 86” tall (7 ft. 2 inch) figure cradles the fragment of a bow under his left arm; a quiver of arrows is visible behind his shoulder. His right hand probably once held an arrow. The figure may represent Rama, the avatar of Vishnu whose adventures are chronicled in the Ramayana, but other deities also carry bows and arrows so the identification cannot be certain. The figure may also represent one of the Pandava brothers, heroes of the other great Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. Regardless, this heroic sculpture must have once belonged to a temple of enormous size.


Shiva as Nataraja Lord of Dance 1426

Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), c. 1000, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

Shiva in his form as Nataraja dances in front of a window overlooking the garden at the Norton Simon Museum.


Shiva as Nataraja Lord of Dance 1427

In his dance of bliss (ananda tandava), Shiva displays both destructive and regenerative powers. This balance of power takes place during Shiva’s dance, which the sculptor depicts in dramatic fashion. He holds in his upper right hand a double-sided drum damaru (the hand drum whose beats syncopate the act of creation and the passage of time). In his upper left hand is the agni (the fire that will destroy the universe), exemplifying his role as the destroyer at the end of each world age. With his lower right hand, he makes abhaya mudra (the gesture that allays fear). His lower left hand, with palm facing down towards his raised left foot, signifies spiritual grace and fulfillment through meditation and mastery over one’s baser appetites. The dwarflike figure being trampled by his right foot represents apasmara purusha (illusion, which leads mankind astray). The symbols imply that, through belief in Shiva, his devotees can achieve salvation.


Shiva as Nataraja Lord of Dance 3704

Shiva as Lord of Dance (Nataraja), c. 1000, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

An image taken from a different angle, after additional lights were directed at the sculpture.

Shiva's dance is set within a flaming halo, the cosmic circle of fire that is the simultaneous and continuous creation and destruction of the universe. The ring of fire that surrounds the figure is the encapsulated cosmos of mass, time, and space, whose endless cycle of annihilation and regeneration moves in tune to the beat of Shiva’s drum and the rhythm of his steps. The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides. Shiva stands on his bent right leg, while his left leg and foot are raised across his body. So vigorous is Shiva’s dancing that his locks of matted hair become loosened from their once-tight formation, allowing the goddess Ganga to be caught in his hair before bringing forth the water of life to earth and avoiding a torrential deluge. Shiva as the Lord of Dance (Nataraja) is an iconic form rich with symbolic meaning. Shiva Nataraja combines in a single image h roles as creator, preserver, and destroyer of the universe and conveys the Indian conception of the never-ending cycle of time. Although it appeared in sculpture as early as the fifth century, its present form evolved under the rule of the Cholas.


Shiva as Vinadhara Lord of Music HS7513


Shiva as Vinadhara Lord of Music 3740

Shiva as Lord of Music, c. 1100, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

After creating the world, Shiva manifested in a variety of ways, each emphasizing a different aspect of his all-encompassing, complex personality. As Lord of Music, he is serene and beneficent. He holds a stringed instrument called the vina, which is missing in this example, but the fingers of his lowered hands are in the position of playing it. His other two attributes in this form are the battle axe (parashu) in the raised right hand and the rearing blackbuck deer indicating that He has attained maturity and firmness in his thought processes (missing along with fingertips of the raised left hand, see the images below of Shiva with Uma and Skanda). Music was considered to be an essential component of sacred learning, and its rhythms reflect the structures of the ongoing creation of the universe. In the middle of his forehead can be seen his third eye (Tryambakam or Trilochana) with which he can burn things to ashes. His matted hair is worn in a shell-like fashion (kaparda or cowrie shell).


Shiva the Bull Rider and Parvati HS7554

Shiva the Bull-Rider and Parvati, c. 1000, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

The majestic Shiva (right) stands in a relaxed posture and would have leaned upon the head of his bull, known as Nandi or Vrisha, which is now missing. The god's recognizable attributes include his elaborate hairstyle, in which his long matted hair is piled up on top of his head to form a crown, his elaborate jewelry, and his armbands. His wife and companion, Parvati, daughter of the Mountain King Parvat, is the embodiment of feminine beauty and grace. When she is with Shiva, her right hand holds a lotus flower (missing here) while her left arm hangs gracefully to the side of her body "like the tail of a cow" (lolahasta mudra).


Shiva with Uma and Skanda HS7542

Shiva with Uma and Skanda, 11th century, India: Andhra Pradesh, bronze.

The Somaskanda murti (idol) is one of the most popular religious images in South India. In this 11th c. version, the four-armed Shiva holds a battle-ax and a blackbuck deer in his upper hands. His lower right hand is raised in abhaya mudra (the gesture that allays fear). Beside Shiva is his consort Uma, another name for Parvati. Standing between them would have been Skanda, their infant son, in a dancing posture (missing in this sculpture, see the images below). Four rings at the lower corners of the pedestal allowed the sculpture to be secured to a platform in order to be carried in processions.


Shiva with Uma and Skanda 3715

Shiva with Uma and Skanda, 950-975, India: Tamil Nadu, Shivapuram, bronze.

This earlier version of the Somaskanda sculpture does not show the battle axe (parashu) in the upper right hand. In the typical presentation of the Somaskanda group, Shiva has the right leg pendant and the left resting upon the platform. Uma (Parvati) sits gracefully with her right leg bent and the foot atop the platform, and her left leg pendant, paralleling Shiva’s. Between them stands their son Skanda in a dancing posture. Shiva is wearing a short dhoti and is adorned with sacred thread, with his hair piled high in a jatamukuta with the naga (snake) head and moon on either side. Parvati is dressed in an ankle-length dhoti with her hair in a tall headdress with locks escaping over her shoulders. Skanda stands with his knees splayed, holding flowers in his hands. All three wear beaded torques and festooned belts.

This image, slightly front-focused but taken in the earlier, lower-contrast lighting, shows the same sculpture as the image below. Both images were taken at f/1.4 to achieve a reasonable shutter speed, this one with a 28mm lens and the one below with an 85mm short telephoto lens from a greater distance and a slightly lower angle. The exposure below was reduced 1.3 stops to retain highlights due to the higher-contrast lighting (pushed in processing), and the focus plane was further back on the bodies.


Shiva with Uma and Skanda HS7548

Shiva with Uma and Skanda, 950-975, India: Tamil Nadu, Shivapuram, bronze.

Legend states that Vishnu, desirous of progeny, worshipped Shiva at Tiruvarur and that Shiva blessed him with a male child Kama. Parvati, who was enraged by the fact that Vishnu had not included her in his worship of Shiva, inflicted a curse upon him that Vishnu's child would be burnt to death by Shiva. Upon realization of the curse, an aggrieved Vishnu created a composite image featuring Shiva, Uma and Skanda (Somaskanda, symbolic of fertility) and offered worship to it. Parvati alleviated the curse placed on him stating that despite being burnt to death, Kama would live on to create the forces of attraction between the male and the female that would ensure the continuation of the human race.

The reason why Saiva poets brought in this concept is that during the 4th to 5th century, part of the Khalabra-ruled dark ages in Tamil Nadu, Jainas and Buddhists were influential and they propagated the idea that celibacy was required to reach Godhead. Saivites thought that this was dangerous to the population and advocated that even householders can attain Shiva's Abode. To point out that even Shiva is a householder, they brought about the concept of Soma-Skanda-Uma. Somaskanda groups were intended to emphasize the importance of the child in family life. The earliest stone versions dated from the Pallava period in the 7th century, but the bronze sculptural groups did not appear until the medieval Chola period of the 9th century.

One of the greatest patrons of tenth century Chola art was Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi. Widowed at a young age, she lived most of her life as a dowager queen. From 941 until her death in 1006, she sponsored the building of numerous stone temples throughout the Cholas’ realm. The bronze workshop that Queen Mahadevi established continued to produce some of the finest iconic images of the Chola period, of which this sculpture is an example. The pattern of the fabric worn by Shiva and Parvati, articulated by bands of circles, triangles and scrolls, is identical to images attributed to Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi’s workshop.


Sridevi Vishnu Bhudevi HS7518

Sridevi (left), Vishnu (center), Bhudevi (right), c. 1025, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

Vishnu is often depicted with his consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi. Sridevi, the goddess of wealth, love, prosperity (both material and spiritual), beauty and good fortune, is Vishnu’s main consort. She is distinguished from Bhudevi by the breast band (kuchabandha) that adorns her chest. Bhudevi (Bhumi) is the earth goddess. Sridevi and Bhudevi are the two forms of Lakshmi. Although she is just as beautiful as Sridevi, Bhudevi does not have any distinguishing features. Both Sridevi and Bhudevi would have held up a blue lotus known as Komud (the night lotus), one of Vishnu’s main attributes, in her raised hand.


Sridevi Vishnu Bhudevi HS7521

Sridevi (left), Vishnu (center), Bhudevi (right), c. 1025, India: Tamil Nadu, bronze.

Vishnu (Lord Narayana) is one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon and, along with Brahma and Shiva, is considered a member of the holy trinity (Trimurti), the three supreme deities of Hinduism. A complex character, Vishnu is the Preserver and guardian of men (Narayana), he protects the order of things (dharma) and, when necessary, he appears on earth in various incarnations or avatars to fight demons and fierce creatures and so maintain cosmic harmony.

Vishnu holds in his hands the Panchajanya shankha (conch) and the Sudarshana chakra (discus). The conch represents "Om", the first sound of creation and also the beginning of matter, since sound and matter are consider to be synonymous. The discus is thought to represent the sun. Vishnu, like Shiva, was originally a minor deity who seems to have been derived from a solar deity. The discus is a vestige of his solar origins. The lower left hand would have held a lotus or padma (which is missing).


Vishnu and Lakshmi with Avatars 3637


Vishnu and Lakshmi with Avatars HS7579

Vishnu and Lakshmi with Avatars, 11th century, India: Himachal Pradesh, copper alloy.

This elaborate altarpiece is one of the most impressive Hindu bronzes to survive from the Pratihara Dynasty (805–1036) of north-central India. Vishnu affectionately embraces his wife Lakshmi, holding her breast with his lower left hand, and holds the  Sudarshana chakra (discus) in his upper left hand. In his upper right hand he holds the Kaumodaki gada (mace), and in his lower right hand he holds a lotus. Lakshmi holds the Panchajanya shankha (conch) which Vishnu would normally have held in his lower left hand. The divine couple is surrounded by his various avatars or incarnations. The supreme form of Vishnu is placed at the peak of the arch, in which he sits in deep mediation holding his primary attributes the mace and discus.


Vishnu with Attendant 1409

Vishnu with Attendant, c. 700, Thailand: Si Thep (?), Mon-Dvaravati period, gold repoussé.

Repoussé refers to decoration hammered into relief from the back of a metal plate. In this gold repoussé plaque, the Hindu god Vishnu represents the world axis. He stands on a square base, symbolic of the earth, and he is framed by a circular halo, which signifies the heavens. His upright form represents a stalk from which a lotus flower blossoms, seen at the top of Vishnu’s miter. Three of Vishnu’s four arms hold his typical attributes: the chakra (discus), shankha (conch), gada (mace), and in the lower right hand he holds an orb representing the sun.

Some interesting gold and gilt bronze repoussé from the Mannerist
and early Baroque periods are on the Getty Paintings 1300-1650 page.
(I put them there because they did not fit in with the Getty Sculpture section).


Three Angel Musicians HS7678

Three Angel Musicians, 14th century, Pisan School, Italian, marble.
Angel playing Timbrels, Angel playing Bagpipe, Angel playing Zither.

Among the more famous sculptors from the Pisan School are Nicola and Giovanni Pisano (see the Siena Cathedral pulpit and the exterior of the Cathedral), Andrea Pisano (see Giotto’s Campanile and other pages in the Florence section), and Arnolfo di Cambio (see the Siena Cathedral pulpit, the Tower of Palazzo Vecchio and the Florence Cathedral, the bronze statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Siena, Florence and Rome sections). The Pisan School had branches in Siena, Florence, Rome and Venice, Milan and Naples. A number of 13th-14th artists studied the style of Nicola Pisano, Giovanni Pisano and his descendants, which blended the French Gothic style with the Classical style of ancient Rome. This style was eclipsed by the new styles of the Renaissance introduced by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello (again, see the Florence section).


Three Angel Musicians 1403 LG

A 2000 x 1333 pixel image of these quintessentially medieval sculptures, taken with a flash (permission was granted).

These sculptures are quite similar to the Angel with Tambourine and Angel with Symphonia (also Pisan, c. 1360), in the National Gallery of Art, especially the Angel playing Zither (right). All of these sculptures share a drapery and facial style with four reliefs from the chapel of the Cintola in the Cathedral of Prato, particularly the Assumption of the Virgin. These reliefs also date from the late 1350s and were created by the Sienese sculptor Niccoló di Cecco del Mercia and Sano (either his son or a pupil), possibly with the collaboration of the Florentine sculptor Giovanni di Francesco Fetti. The angels exhibit both Sienese and Florentine characteristics similar to that of the Pisan Schools of western and southern Tuscany, and their lack of real bases and the depth of the statuettes indicate that they probably stood on top of finials or columnets of a large decorative complex.


St. Michael and Dragon HS7672

Saint Michael and the Dragon As Virtue Overcoming Vice,
late 13th/early 14th century, School of Reims, French, polychromed wood.

This French Gothic sculpture from the School of Reims derived from the Carolingian art of 780-900 AD and the early Gothic sculpture from the 12th century. The Cathedral School of Reims developed a strong sculptural style after the great fire of 1211, and much of the sculptural work was done between 1255 and 1274, although the upper parts of the facade were completed in the early 14th century following the 13th century designs. From 1274, many of the sculptors dispersed, carrying the style which was developed for the numerous sculptures over the portals and on other parts of the Cathedral with them.

In this sculpture, the Archangel St. Michael smiles as he stands atop the dragon. The dragon looks back up at St. Michael in agony. The sculpture could be considered to signify either the triumph of Christianity over Paganism, or good over evil (the dragon as the “Old Serpent” as the Devil, and St. Michael as the Archangel of Light fighting the Devil as a Dragon of Darkness), or as in the title: Virtue Overcoming Vice.


da Settignano Madonna HS7690 LG
1632 x 2136 (767 KB)

Beauregard Madonna, attributed to Desiderio da Settignano, c. 1455, Italian, 1429-1464, white Carrara marble.

Desiderio de Bartolomeo di Francesco detto Ferro (da Settignano) was, like many of his contemporaries,
known for the village he came from (Settignano), and was typically referred to as Desiderio da Settignano.

Born and trained in Settignano, a village of stonecutters in Tuscany, Desiderio was one of the most talented marble sculptors at work in Florence during the Renaissance. In this sculpture, the Virgin embraces and presents the Christ Child, who stands in contrapposto, clutching his swaddling cloth in both hands, a gesture that conveys both visual and emotional meaning. It adds movement to the composition and it reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice with reference to his burial shroud. Desiderio carved the figures in low relief, paying great attention to the tangible details of texture and weight. The description of the Virgin’s dress and veil, and the soft, pudgy flesh of the Infant, appear to transcend the hardness of the medium.

Desiderio created the Beauregard Madonna in 1455, roughly six years before the Tabernacle of the Sacrament in San Lorenzo. This is called the Beauregard Madonna because that is the name of the first documented owner. In his short life (1430-1464), Desiderio created some truly masterful sculptures. He achieved some important commissions early in life based on his mastery of marble and his sensitivity, and he really had a gift in the representation of children. Note the character of the pudgy skin of the child around the knees and elbow, and the character of the folds of the dress. The textures he created here were exquisite. He invented the sculpted portraiture of children, made popular the low-relief techniques he had learned from Donatello, and had a delicacy of expression and texture unique to his time.

Half-length painted or carved images of the Madonna and Child adorned domestic interiors, especially the private chapels of wealthy and aristocratic families. As objects of devotion and prayer, they were believed to have power as intermediaries to their divine counterparts.


da Vinci Nilus God of the River Nile 3482

Nilus, God of the River Nile, Pierino da Vinci, 1550s, Italian, bronze.

Pierino da Vinci was the son of Bartolommeo da Vinci, Leonardo's youngest brother. He was sent by his father from Vinci to study under Baccio Bandinelli in Florence, but Bandinelli did not spend much time with the boy so he was then sent to Niccolo Tribolo, who trained him in sculpture. Several of the works of Pierino da Vinci were attributed to Michelangelo, as he was strongly influenced by his famous contemporary. Pierino da Vinci's execution was superb and in many respects similar to that of Michelangelo. This sculpture was executed when da Vinci was in Pisa doing work for Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici.

While living in Rome to study the principal works of art there and associate with the artists there, da Vinci met and did a wax model of a tomb for a close friend of Michelangelo, Francesco Bandini, used it to create a tomb of marble that he wished to erect in his chapel in Santa Croce. Bandini took da Vinci to Florence, where he executed a number of works, including a wax copy of the Moses for the Tomb of Julius II by Michelangelo in San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in Chains) which was sent to Luca Martini dell’Ala, the Proveditor of Pisa for Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici of Florence.

Luca Martini commissioned a bronze relief from da Vinci: The Death of Count Ugolino della Gherardesca and his Sons (1548/49), from an Inferno scene in the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (see the Santa Croce page in the Florence section). This relief was recently in the news as it was the subject of an unsuccessful attempt to keep it in the UK. It was long thought to have been a work of Michelangelo but was later re-attributed to Pierino da Vinci. The relief is now in the Liechtenstein Museum.

Pierino da Vinci executed several sculptures in Pisa for Cosimo I de' Medici, the Grand Duke of Tuscany (see the Cortile of Michelozzo, in the Palazzo Vecchio section of the Florence Portfolio), but when he went to Genoa along with Luca Martini for the Grand Duke, he succumbed to malaria, left Genoa for Pisa, and died the next day at the age of 23.


Clodion Bacchante Bacchus and Faun 1380

Bacchante Supported by Bacchus and a Faun, Claude Michel (Clodion), 1795, French, terracotta.

Claude Michel, known as Clodion, was one of the most creative and technically gifted French sculptors in the second half of the 18th century. Although skillful at executing monumental sculpture in marble, his genius was expressed most fully in his small terracottas as shown in "Bacchante Supported by Bacchus and a Faun." In this exuberant ensemble a young Bacchante, or female follower of Bacchus, is playfully carried aloft by the god of wine and a faun. Clodion fuses the movement and energy of the Baroque seventeenth century with antique themes in a lighter, more delicate and more subtly sensual style than previously achieved by contemporaries.

In the history of European sculpture, the Rococo artist Clodion is perhaps the most famous modeler of clay. During the nine years he studied in Rome (1762-1771), the renown of his terracotta sculptures became so great, his earliest biographer recorded that his works were "bought by amateurs even before they were finished". Among his clients was Catherine the Great of Russia, who attempted without success to attract Clodion to her court. Clodion capitalized on a growing interest in terracottas as objects to be collected, and his technical brilliance encouraged their aesthetic appreciation as independent works of art (rather than simply as sketches or models for works to be completed in more permanent media like stone or bronze).

Clodion frequently drew from ancient mythology for his terracottas, but he rarely focused on grand events, preferring non-serious scenes with mythological figures of secondary rank. For Clodion, ancient culture provided a classical figure style, a repertory of characters and settings, and perhaps most importantly, a nostalgic mood. As was typical of the Rococo style, his works tended to be playful and erotic. Although Clodion finished the piece in the round, he designed it to be seen from the front, placed on a piece of furniture or on a mantelpiece. Known for his masterful handling of wet clay, the artist focused on texture, differentiating clingy or billowing drapery from satin-textured skin.


Rodin Burghers of Calais X2656

Burghers of Calais, Auguste Rodin, 1889 (cast 1968), French, bronze.

By law, no more than 12 casts can be made of work by Rodin.
This was the 10th cast (the first cast was made in 1895 for Calais).

The Burghers of Calais (Les Monument aux Bourgeois de Calais) is one of the most famous sculptures executed by Auguste Rodin. It was commissioned by the City of Calais in 1885 as a monument of an incident in 1347 during the Hundred Years War. The town council of the port city of Calais wanted to pay tribute to the six Burghers who had risked their lives to save the citizens of Calais after the 11 month siege of King Edward III of England, which had reduced the city to the brink of starvation and thirst.

To save the population Edward required six of the leading citizens to present themselves as hostages in plain garments with nooses around their necks, bearing the keys to the city and citadel. Edward intended to kill the Burghers, but according to the medieval writer Jean Froissart, his pregnant wife Philippa of Hainault intervened, convincing Edward to spare them claiming that their deaths would be a bad omen for her unborn child. Rodin focused on all six Burghers rather than just the leading citizen, Eustache de Saint-Pierre, as had the previous artists and as the city council originally intended. Rodin accorded each of the six Burghers equal status by placing them all at the same height, and faced them in different directions to require the viewer to circumnavigate the sculpture to be able to appreciate his work in its entirety.

More images of the complete sculpture and additional information is on the Rodin Sculptures page.


Rodin Saint-Pierre d’Aire detail X2848c

Detail of the leading Burgher, Eustache de Saint-Pierre (left) and the second to volunteer, Jean d’Aire,
with the key at right. On the far left, Jacques de Wissant dramatically covers his face with his right hand.

Eustache de Saint-Pierre was the first of the Burghers to risk his life by volunteering to hand over the keys to Edward III. The oldest of the group, Eustache Saint-Pierre was considered the core figure and was the focus of previous works. Rodin rejected the established conventions of public sculpture, refusing to execute a pyramidal monument raising Eustache Saint-Pierre above the other figures and portrayed the men not as glorious heroes, but as troubled and isolated individuals brought together by their anguish and common purpose, and standing on the same level, with no clear indication of which is the leader of the group.

The Burghers are dressed in plain garments made of sackcloth, with nooses around their necks. Their hands are proportionally quite large, and their figures are emaciated and weak from famine. Each face exhibits a different response to their situation.


Rodin Burghers Pierre de Wissant 7720


Rodin Jean de Fiennes 7733

At left, detail of the Burghers of Calais, with Pierre de Wissant in the foreground.
At right, a study of Jean de Fiennes, Vetu (dressed) for the Burghers of Calais.


Rodin Jeanne de Fiennes X2664

Jean de Fiennes, Vetu (dressed), Auguste Rodin, 1884-95, French, bronze, Edition of IV, Cast No. I

There are over a hundred surviving three-dimensional studies which Rodin created for the Burghers of Calais, including hands, feet, heads, headless figures, facial masks, and complete figures, both nude and dressed as well as the two maquettes. The bodies of the six Burghers were created separately from the heads, and he created the individual clay working models at high speed while watching a group of nude models "selected for their strength of character and a maturity hardened by arduous physical labor or combat". He then created the full-size studies nude before draping the figures.

Jean de Fiennes was the youngest of the Burghers, and Rodin modeled his figure with arms outspread and mouth open, as if he were questioning his decision to sacrifice himself for the safety of the people of Calais. Jean de Fiennes went through the most changes from the first to the second maquettes and to the Grand Model. The shape of the head, the face and facial expression, the position of the head, body, arms and legs, hands and feet all changed through several studies to the second maquette, when the general position and stance were defined but everything else was still to be refined. The final Grand Model had long wavy hair, lighter drapery with vertical folds revealing the feet, and an expression with lips parted and brow furrowed, that along with the position of the hands gives the figure a doubting disposition as he looks back to Calais, which he may never see again.


Rodin The Thinker 3840

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin, 1880 and 1902, French, bronze, Edition of 12, Cast No. 11

When conceived in 1880 in its original size (approximately 28 inches) as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell , seated on the tympanum, The Thinker was entitled The Poet. He represented Dante, the author of the Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates of Hell, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell while meditating on his work. The pose of this figure is based on Carpeaux’s Ugolino and the seated portrait of Lorenzo de’ Medici carved by Michelangelo.

While remaining in place on the monumental Gates of Hell, The Thinker was exhibited individually in 1888 and thus became an independent work. Enlarged in 1902, its monumental version proved even more popular and has become one of the most celebrated sculptures ever known. Numerous casts exist worldwide, cast in multiple versions at different sizes.


Degas Little Dancer aged 14 HS7391

Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, Edgar Degas, 1878-81, French, copper alloy.

The original wax model of "The Little Fourteen Year Old Dancer" was exhibited in the 6th Impressionist Exhibition of April 1881, presenting the Parisian public with an extraordinary new conception of sculpture. Degas dressed the wax figure in a silk bodice, gauze tutu, and fabric slippers, with a satin ribbon in her real hair wig. The wig, slippers, and bodice were covered with a layer of wax to help unite them with the rest of the work, while preserving their special texture. His model, Marie von Goethem, was a student of the Ballet de l'Opera and worked as an artist's model. Accustomed to representations that idealized human forms, the public had mixed reactions to the graphic portrayal of an adolescent dance student, dressed in real clothing. After the exhibition, Degas returned the "Little Dancer" to his apartment, where it remained until his death in 1917.


Picasso Head of a Jester 1302

Head of a Jester, Pablo Picasso, 1905, Spanish (worked in France), bronze, Edition unnumbered, Vollard cast.

This figure's floppy three-pointed cap distinguishes it from the similarly gaunt and generally forlorn Harlequin figures that appear so frequently in Pablo Picasso's paintings from 1901 to 1910. The artist certainly saw Paul Cézanne's Mardi Gras (Pierrot and Harlequin) at the 1904 Salon d'Automne in Paris, when he became most interested in the theme. The fluidity with which Picasso moved between the themes of jesters, Harlequins, and saltimbanques (the itinerant acrobats who sometimes dressed in the costumes of Commedia dell'Arte characters) shows how personally he identified with these performers to channel themes of alienation, love, jealousy, and fraternity. He began the clay model for this head after an evening spent at the Cirque Médrano as a portrait of the poet Max Jacob, one of his intimate circle of friends during his early years in Paris. By the time he added the jester's cap, Jacob's likeness and personality had been transformed into a visionary, bemused "fool" whose inward-looking gaze is emphasized by his deep eye sockets. The Jester resembles the red-suited figure in Acrobat and Young Harlequin, an oil painting of 1905 in which the figure wears the same typical pointed hat, but has a weaker and less protruding chin.

Head of a Jester is one of the earliest and most traditional of Picasso's sculptures. It was modeled in clay and later cast in bronze using the familiar head-and-shoulders format of the European portrait bust. Picasso's early sculpture output is low in comparison with the number of sculptures produced from the late 1920s. Head of a Jester was purchased in 1910 by the dealer Ambroise Vollard along with four other pieces when Picasso was badly in need of money. Vollard made unnumbered castings from the originals of these sculptures, and Head of a Jester and two other heads met with immediate commercial success.


Maillol Summer HS7410


Maillol Summer HS7403

Summer, Aristide Maillol, 1910-11, bronze, Edition of 6, unnumbered cast.

In the Salon d’Automne in Paris, 1910, Aristide Maillol exhibited a life-size bronze nude entitled Pomona, which garnered his first public acclaim and attracted the interest of the Russian collector Ivan Abramovich Morosov, who purchased Pomona and convinced Maillol to produce a complete set of allegorical figures to represent the four seasons. This is the statue of Summer, which exhibits Maillol’s characteristic use of full-figured models and his typical treatment of the subject’s flesh, especially through the waist and abdomen. Maillol would specialize in the use of full-figured models, and would emphasize the thickness of the waist, the weight and volume of the limbs, and the exaggerated contrapposto stance he used in the portrayal of Summer. Both Pomona and Summer were sculpted in this style (with Pomona in a slight contrapposto), although the sculptures Flora and Spring had comparatively narrow hips, a very slight contrapposto, modest breasts and slender waists.

Maillol began his art career as a painter, and inspired by Gothic tapestries and at the urging of Paul Gauguin he began pursuing the decorative arts, taking up tapestry design and producing works of high technical and aesthetic quality which gained him recognition in the art world. In 1900, Maillol turned to sculpture due to eye disease and failing eyesight at the age of 40, and produced nearly all of his works as studies of the female form. His work was inspired by the Classical tradition of Greek and Roman sculpture, and his early works in the mold of Cézanne were much admired by Auguste Rodin and Maurice Denis.


Maillol Summer HS7417

A low-angle shot of Maillol’s Summer,

In 1905 Auguste Rodin arranged a meeting between Maillol and the German diplomat and collector Count Harry Kessler at the shop of the Parisian art dealer Ambroise Vollard. In the following years, Count Kessler did much to further Maillol's success as a sculptor, and in 1908 he took Maillol on a tour of Greece. Maillol had already begun to use antique sculptural sources for his models, but chose to apply only the structural principles of Greek sculpture to his monumental female nudes.

Summer is one of the four life-sized personifications that were commissioned by the Russian collector of avant garde art Ivan Morozov on the recommendation of the Nabis artist Maurice Denis. The series, modeled between about 1910 and 1912, included female figures of Spring, Summer, Flora, and Pomona. All four were displayed in the music room of Morozov's mansion in Moscow among the panels which were painted by Denis, and are now in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.


Moore Family Group 1 HS7430


Moore Girl Seated against a Square Wall HS7422

Family Group #1, Henry Moore, 1948-49, English, 1898-1986, bronze, Edition of 4

A sculptor heavily influenced by the Surrealist style, Henry Moore became the voice of Modernist sculpture in 1930s England and quickly gained international recognition for his monumental outdoor works. These sculptures typically depict abstract human forms that, though very large, convey a graceful fluidity and unification that belie their magnitude, reflecting the artist’s desire for his works to be thought of as a celebration of life, family and nature. In 1943, he received a commission to sculpt a Madonna and Child for the Church of St. Matthew, Northampton, which was his first family-group sculpture. Family Group #1 was Moore’s first large-scale commission after World War II.

Moore himself explained the reason behind his conceptualization of human figures in an interview in 1959: “If you see a friend in the distance, you don’t recognize him by the color of his eyes (these you are unable to see) but by the total effect made by his figure: the general disposition of the forms.” Family Group #1 illustrates this idea to perfection. Within the bronze sculpture exist three stylized figures: a mother, a father and a child. Though they have very sparse features, the anatomy shown is enough for the viewer to ‘fill in the blanks’ and recognize the shapes as human, thereby evoking a reflexive empathy for the family scene depicted. However, in addition to encouraging automatic recognition, the style also helps the sculpture achieve a tone of great intimacy; while both adult figures maintain their distinction as separate entities, their outstretched arms fuse and blend, becoming one with the figure of their child.

Girl Seated Against a Square Wall, Henry Moore, 1957-58
English, bronze, Edition of 12 & 1, Artist's Proof, Cast No. 0

Girl Seated against Square Wall is a rendering of a figure that registers the most acute signs of distress. This image, a view of the body as damaged, fragile, broken and attenuated, flies in the face of the standard account of Moore that has rested on another set of descriptors entirely: soft, sleek, sensual, undulating and nurturing. The flat wall behind the figure is enlivened by configurations of small rectangular or nearly square depresssions, which impart an architectural reference.


Giacometti Tall Figure IV 3443


Giacometti Tall Figure IV HS7447

Tall Figure IV, Alberto Giacometti, 1960, Swiss, bronze, Edition of 6, Cast No. 1

Tall Figure IV, standing in the Modern Art section of the Norton Simon Museum near Picasso’s Ram’s Head (left).

For Alberto Giacometti, conventional questions of sculpture (mass and proportion) were subservient to questions of distance and totality of vision. In a quest to articulate his unique perception, he elongated his works, producing tall thin totemic figures that struck a cord with many mid-twentieth-century viewers, who saw in them a metaphor for modern existence. The Tall Figure sculptures were conceived for the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City as part of a multi-figure outdoor sculpture. Although only intending to use one of each in the final composition (which, because of his death, was never finished), Giacometti made seven plasters: four women, two men, and one head. The bronze standing women average nine feet tall and have an unsettling rigidity, hands at their sides and feet fixed to their solid bases. The surface is rough, eroded and heavily worked, and the figure evokes the feel of a lone tree in winter which has lost its foliage.

Alberto Giacometti was born in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland to a family of artists. After settling in Paris at the age of twenty-one, he became inspired by Constantin Brancusi, as well as tribal art and Cubism. Giacometti was a painter, a printmaker and a writer, but he is best known for the tall, thin figures he began to produce after the terrors of World War II. Of the attenuated proportions the artist once said: “I am interested in the head from the brains down. In my sculpture I make the head the fort of the mind. The legs are only the mind’s antenna to earth.” Tall Figure IV is one of Giacometti's last masterpieces.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Norton Simon Museum Paintings page.


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Norton Simon Museum Rodin Bronzes page.