India, region of Bengal, Pala Empire, ca. 8th to 12th centuries CE. A black stone high relief carving of a female figure, probably Tara, a bodhisattva. Temples in Pala were built of brick, with carved stone images like this one set into wall niches. The woman depicted here is voluptuous, wearing ornate and fine clothing and jewelry and holding in one hand what appears to be a bird or some other attribute. Tara was a hugely popular Vajrayana deity with the rise of Tantra in 8th century Pala, a combination of "Mother of all Buddhas" and the Indian concept of a mother goddess. During the Pala dynasty, the kingdom was one of the only places in India where Buddhism was practiced; as a result, it became an enclave of Buddhist art, with Buddhist monks, students, and pilgrims journeying from across Asia to see holy sites, monasteries, and universities. When they returned home, the Pala artistic style journeyed with them, giving it great influence in art throughout the Buddhist world. See a similarly styled figure of Tara from the Pala period in bronze at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Size: 6.45" W x 11" H (16.4 cm x 27.9 cm)
Provenance: Ex - Prominent LA County collector who acquired these prior to 2000
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