Image 1 of 1

Terms of Use

Usage Conditions Apply

At A Glance

  • Period

    15th-16th century
  • Geography

  • Material

    Gilt copper repousse with pigment
  • Dimension

    H x W x D: 41.9 x 41.1 x 17.7 cm (16 1/2 x 16 3/16 x 6 15/16 in)
  • Accession Number



Object Details

  • Description

    Standing in the dynamic, diagonal pose known as the hunter's strance (pratyalidha), Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva, has three menacing heads and six hands, five of which brandish weapons. Somewhat surprisingly, the sixth hand holds a full-blown lotus stem complete with leaves. Each scowling face has three round bulging eyes, an open mouth displaying fangs, and a trim beard delineated in the fashion typical of Nepalese imagery. On each head, the bristling hair is held into place by a five-lobed crown decorated with human skulls. The god's robust body is ornamented with a range of twisted serpents which serve as earrings, bracelets, and anklets, while a knotted serpent also serves as the sacred thread (yajnopavita) draped over his broad chest and ample belly. Bhairava's signature apparel, a tiger skin with engraved tufts of fur, is his only garment; in addition he wears an openwork ritual apron composed of human bones, with bone swags that sway to either side of his body and accentuate his vigorous, heroic movement.
  • Provenance

    To 1964
    Doris Wiener Gallery, New York. [1]
    From 1964 to ?
    Stuart Cary Welch (1928-2008), Cambridge, Massachusetts, purchased from Doris Wiener, Inc., New York in 1964. [2]
    From ? to 1999
    Doris Wiener Gallery, New York. [3]
    From 1999
    Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, purchased from Doris Wiener Gallery, New York in 1999. [4]
    [1] According to the Curatorial Justification, “The object was sold in New York in 1964 to Stuart Cary Welch by Doris Wiener; it was subsequently published in P. Pal ed. Nepal: Where the Gods are Young, New York: Asia House Gallery, 1975 as cat. #66.” See Acquisition Justification, copy in object file, Collections Management Office. Please also note, the 1975 catalogue entry edited by P. Pal, where the object is mentioned, is credited to “Lent anonymously”.
    [2] See note 1.
    [3] See Acquisition Consideration Form, object file, Collections Management Office.
    [4] See note 3.
  • Collection

    National Museum of Asian Art Collection
  • Exhibition History

    Sculpture of South Asia and the Himalayas (November 19, 1992 to July 9, 2017)
  • Previous custodian or owner

    Doris Wiener Gallery
    Stuart Cary Welch (1928-2008)
    Doris Wiener Gallery
  • Origin

  • Credit Line

    Purchase -- funds provided by the Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries
  • Type

  • Restrictions and Rights

    Usage Conditions Apply

    There are restrictions for re-using this media. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The National Museum of Asian Art welcomes information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.

Keep Exploring