Saint Sundarar with wife Paravai

Historical period(s)
16th century
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
H x W x D: 57.2 x 37.1 x 19 cm (22 1/2 x 14 5/8 x 7 1/2 in)
Geography
India, Tamil Nadu state, Kallakuruchchi Taluk, Veerasolapuram village
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1987.902
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Sculpture
Type

Figure

Keywords
casting, India, Paravai, Saint Sundarar, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

From 16th century to possibly 1961
Shiva Temple in Veerasolapuram village, Kallakuruchchi Taluk, Tamil Nadu, India [1]

About 1961 to 1968
William H. Wolff, INC., New York, NY, method of acquisition unknown [2]

1968 to 1987
Arthur M. Sackler, New York, NY, purchased from William H. Wolff, INC., NY [3]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, gift of Arthur M. Sackler on September 11, 1987 [4]

Notes:

[1] In the summer of 2018, the museum discovered that the Saint Sundarar with wife Paravai bronze was from the Shiva temple (also known as Narishwara, Nagareshwara, or Ardhanareshwara) built in the 16th century, Vijaynagara period. The temple is situated in the Veerasolapuram village, in the Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, India. In 1956, the sculpture was at this temple, as it was photographed in-situ; the original photograph is at the photo archive jointly run by the École Française d'Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP). While it is not known with certainty when the bronze left the Tamil Nadu temple and arrived in the United States, another sculpture from the same temple was sold by William H. Wolff, INC. in 1961. Since the Sackler sculpture was previously in possession of Mr. Wolff, who then sold it to Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, it is possible that the Sackler bronze also left India by 1961.

[2] In 1961 William H. Wolff, INC. offered other sculptures originating from the Shiva temple in Tamil Nadu (see note 1). William H. Wolff, INC. sold this sculpture to Arthur M. Sackler in 1968 (see note 3).

[3] Arthur M. Sackler purchased this sculpture in 1968. According to information from the Brooklyn Museum of Art’s registrar files, the sculpture came to the Brooklyn Museum of Art on June 12, 1968 as a loan from Arthur M. Sackler. For the sculpture, Arthur M. Sackler’s collection number was L68.12.23. Based on this information, Arthur M. Sackler likely acquired this sculpture earlier in 1968, see correspondence from the Brooklyn Museum of Art, copy in object file. See also invoice from William H. Wolf, INC., February 11, 1970, no. 02/311 A, “Large Bronze Sumaskanda (Seated Siva & Parvati)” and “Dr. Sackler Selection,” William H. Wolf, INC., undated, no. 02.311 A, “Large Bronze Sumaskanda,” copies in object file. Dr. Sackler made installment payments which began in 1968 and completed in 1971.

[4] Pursuant to the agreement between Arthur M. Sackler and the Smithsonian Institution, dated July 28, 1982, legal title of the donated objects was transferred to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on September 11, 1987.

Previous Owner(s)

Shiva Temple in Veerasolapuram village
William H. Wolff, Inc. 1906-1991
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987

Label

During puja images of Hindu gods, goddesses, and saints are often bathed and dressed to honor the deity or the saint they portray. This bronze sculpture represents the saint Sundara and his wife, Paravai, followers of the god Shiva. It is dressed as it would be when carried through the streets of a southern Indian city during a religious festival. For most of the year, an image such as this is kept in its own shrine in a large temple. Once a yeare during an eloborate puja, it is washed with holy water, then with milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste, and ashes before being dressed in ceremonial robes. It is lavishly adorned with garlands of flowers and may be decorated with jewelry.

Priests then invoke the spirits of the deity or saint depicted to enter the sculpture. For the duration of the ceremony the image is thought to contain the deity's presence.  In an elaborate procession, many sacred images are paraded through the streets, accompanied by thousands of devotees. Hindus believe that even a glimpse of an image filled with the spirit of the god or saint facilitates a direct visual communication (darshan) with the deity, which will bring blessings to the worsippers.

Sundara was an eighth-century follower of Shiva whose focused devotion and performance of countless miracles with Shiva's aid were greatly responsible for the spread of the worship of Shiva in southern India. His wife, Paravai, is honored for her steadfast loyalty to both her god and her husband.

Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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