Described often as ‘ornate’ and ‘rococo’ the Hoysala style developed independently in the Deccan in the twelfth century. Displaying a unique admixture of Northern and Southern Indian artistic styles, Hoysala sculptures are characterized by deep carving and undercutting as seen in the present lot. While the abundance of carving seen in Hoysala temples is encountered in Central and Western Indian monuments of the same period the delicacy of the carving and the attention lavished on minute detail is without parallel in any other phase of Indian art.
Vishnu is seen here in his form of Kesava which was popular with the Hoysala Dynasty. The sculpture’s weighty frame is given an additional dimension with embellishments – the overhanging locks of hair framing Vishnu’s face, his multiple layers of necklaces, festooned girdle. Indeed no part of the stone surface is left undecorated. For an even more elaborately carved sculpture of Vishnu as Kesava in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art see J. C. Harle, The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, London, 1986, fig. 206, p. 265.
Bracket sculptures such as the present lot were produced in wide quantity and variety and were placed in rows ornamenting the outer walls of temples. For an example of the placement of such sculptures in the iconographic program of Hoysala temples see S. L. Huntingdon, The Art of Ancient India: Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, New York, 1985, fig. 22.27, p. 560, depicting an outer wall of the Kesava Temple at Belur.
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