Sotheby’s is delighted to present works from one of the great American collections of non-western art: The Collection of Edwin and Cherie Silver. This famous Los Angeles collection includes impeccable examples of classical South Asian, African, Pre-Columbian, Oceanic, and American Indian Art. The Silvers built their collection beginning in the 1960s, during the golden age of American post-war collecting in these categories. Works from the Silver Collection have been shown at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The National Museum for African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., The Los Angeles County Museum at UCLA, and the Center of African Art, New York.
In the memorable words of their children, Daniel Silver, Donna Silver Frajnd and Karen Silver Horowitz: “The works of art that entered the Silver Collection are expressions of our parent’s individual tastes, and their eye for both elegance and strength of form. The Silver Collection is the result of their dedication and shared passion for these extraordinary art forms. Each object has a voice in the chorus. Each acquisition bears a story evoking happy memories of our parents, and of the unique and wonderful experience of growing up amidst these stunning objects. These remembered experiences are those that shaped our family and our lives, and continue to enrich the three of us to this day.”
Bronze images created between the 9th through the 13th centuries in South India are widely hailed as iconic masterpieces throughout the world. During this period most of the South Indian peninsula was under the rule of the Chola dynasty. At the height of their power, the Cholas controlled a vast swathe of territory that included not only southern India but also extended to Sri Lanka and the Maldive Islands. The Chola period is notable for its unparalleled cultural and artistic achievements and is widely considered to be a 'golden age' in Indian history. Indeed the standards set in bronze casting, sculpture, painting and architecture continue to define these traditions in South India to this day. Besides the skill required in casting, Chola craftsman perfected the harmony of line and form in these images creating some of the finest free-standing sculptures in existence.
Chola monarchs were active patrons of the arts, building numerous temples and commissioning thousands of sculptures in stone and bronze for the purpose of worship in these edifices. It was during this era of powerful patronage buoyed by unfettered economic prosperity that some of the finest Indian stone and bronze sculpture was produced.
Uma, or Parvati as she is known outside of Southern India, is revered as the essential companion to the omniscient, all powerful Shiva. Not only is she the epitome of benevolence, beauty and grace, it is through her that Shiva’s obdurate divinity can be comprehended.
This image of Uma together with that of her Lord Shiva would have been carried in processional worship around the temple and town in which they were housed so that all worshippers had the opportunity to view the icons and partake of their grace.
Uma can assume many forms, some ferocious, others benign. As Durga or Kali she is depicted as a fierce and wrathful deity. When she is being represented as the wife of Shiva, she is shown as gentle and loving, and is usually smaller in scale than her consort. Her right hand, as can be seen in the present example, is held in a distinctive gesture with her forefinger almost touching her thumb, forming a ring where a flower could be placed.
Uma's posture suggests that this image would have once been a part of a set of images in which she accompanied Shiva in one of his manifestations, and it is likely that this stance would represent Uma with Shiva as Lord of the Dance. As his wife and consort she was one of the few being allowed to witness his performance, and an attendant statue of Uma is integral part of Shiva Nataraja imagery. With her left hand pendent and hip thrust out, she would have been placed on the left side of the God, although they are now separated.
For a related image of Uma from the Rockefeller Collection at Asia Society New York see Denise Leidy, Treasures of Asian Art, New York, p.52, no. 34.
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