Yogini

Goddess seated cross-legged carved in high relief on a rounded granite slab. Goose vahana carved in light relief on base. She holds a winnower (a basketlike apparatus for separating chaff from grain), a small broom, and a skull cup in three hands, and her forth hand touches her breast in a pose signifying self-absorbtion. She wears a tall crown, one crocodilian and one cobra earring, and her hair is loose behind her head.

Historical period(s)
Chola dynasty, 10th century
Medium
Stone (metagabbro)
Dimensions
H x W x D: 116 x 76 x 43.2 cm (45 11/16 x 29 15/16 x 17 in)
Geography
India
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1987.905
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 26a: Gods, Companions, and Devotees
Classification(s)
Sculpture, Stone
Type

Figure

Keywords
Chola dynasty (850 - 1280), goose, Hinduism, India, WWII-era provenance, yogini
Provenance

By 1926
M. Thangavelu, Kanchi (also known as Kanchipuram or Kancheepuram), India reportedly discovered in Kanchi [1]

1926-1927
Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil (1885-1945), Pudcherry (formerly Pondicherry), India acquired from M. Thangavelu [2]

1927-about 1950
C. T. Loo & Company, New York, NY and Paris, France purchased from Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil [2]

About 1950-?
Christian Humann (1929-1981), New York, NY purchased from C. T. Loo & Company, NY [3]

By 1968-1974
Drs. Arthur M., Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler, New York, NY purchased from Christian Humann [4]

1974-1987
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, New York, NY purchased from Drs. Raymond and Mortimer Sackler in 1974 [5]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Arthur M. Sackler on September 11, 1987 [6]

Notes:
[1] M. Thangavelu, a local, South Indian agent who worked around Kanchi, discovered this sculpture along with approximately 19 others sculptural figures. He made repeated expeditions to recover these sculptures, however the dates of these expeditions and what exactly he recovered were not recorded, nor were the exact locations. Thangavelu presented each sculpture to Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil (see note 2). See Padma Audrey Kaimal, Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, INC., 2012, p.133-135.

[2] See Kaimal, p.133-137. Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil was a French-born archeologist who lived in Pondicherry, India. Kaimal reports that Loo and Jouveau-Dubreuil became acquainted in Paris between 1922 and 1923. Loo proposed that Jouveau-Dubreuil become Loo's scout, supplier, and buying agent in India. It is likely that Loo was not Jouveau-Dubreuil's only patron, see Kaimal, p. 137 and p. 243, note 25. Jouveau-Dubreuil photographed each object before exporting them to France; his photographs are preserved at the Musée Guimet, Paris and in the archives of the Red Pagoda, Paris.

[3] See Kaimal, p.137-142. Jouveau-Dubreuil and C. T. Loo collaborated closely on the export of the sculptures from Kanchi, India to Paris, France. The sculptures arrived in Paris via several shipments, the first arriving in the fall of 1926 and the last by July 1927. The correspondence between Loo and Jouveau-Dubreuil is unclear, as the letters do not plainly report specific details of the individual pieces or dates of export and receipt. See Kaimal's diagram of the sculptures mentioned in Loo and Jouveau-Dubreuil's correspondence, p.137.

[4] See note 5 and Kaimal, p.164.

[5] Documentation from Brooklyn cited by Kaimal, p. 255, see note 90. The Collection and Collections Information Department at the Brooklyn Museum reports that they received the object on loan in 1968 and credited the three Sackler brothers (Drs. Arthur M, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler) with ownership. Arthur M. Sackler's office notified the Collection and Collections Information Department at the Brooklyn Museum of his exclusive ownership in December 1974.

[6] The 1982 inventory of Arthur M. Sackler's gift to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery reports Arthur M. Sackler as the owner, see 1982 inventory, copy in file.

[7] 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)

M. Thangavelu early 20th century
C.T. Loo 1880-1957
Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil French, 1885 - 1945
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948
Dr. Mortimer David Sackler
Dr. Raymond Sackler American, 1920 - 2017
Christian Humann 1929 - 1981

Description

Goddess seated cross-legged carved in high relief on a rounded granite slab. Goose vahana carved in light relief on base. She holds a winnower (a basketlike apparatus for separating chaff from grain), a small broom, and a skull cup in three hands, and her forth hand touches her breast in a pose signifying self-absorbtion. She wears a tall crown, one crocodilian and one cobra earring, and her hair is loose behind her head.

Inscription(s)

On reverse of sculpture at lower right corner, in red paint (?): L68.13.31
On reverse of sculpture at center right, in black pigment: 2

Label

This four-armed Hindu goddess is a yogini, a female embodiment of yogic power. She once graced a temple with at least forty-two equally life-sized sculptures of yoginis set in niches around a central courtyard.


Yoginis are both benign and ferocious. This sculpture’s gracefully swaying posture, full breasts, and gentle smile, as well as the threshing tools in her upper hands, reveal that she confers blessings. In contrast, her unbound hair (a marker of female wrath), fangs, and skull cup (for drinking blood or liquor) indicate that she can be very dangerous if approached in the wrong way. Lightly incised into the pedestal is a duck, which indicates the goddess belongs to the class of flying yoginis known as sky travelers (khechari).

Published References
  • (Introduction) Dr. John Alexander Pope. An Exhibition of the Sculpture of Greater India, a Fully Illustrated Catalogue. Exh. cat. New York. cat. 38.
  • Padma Kaimal. Scattered Goddesses: Travels with the Yoginis. Ann Arbor, 2014. pp. 20, 19, 91-92, 164, 168, 188, figs. 2, 21, 26, 87, 89, 134, 135.
  • Padma Kaimal. Seductive and Repulsive: The Deceptive Contrasts of a South Indian Goddess. vol. 36, no.1, Summer/Fall 2003. pp. 28-35.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 28, pp. 64-65.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. p. 108.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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