These two brass-images, translucent as bathed in molten silver, glistening with divine aura, representing Lord Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, are two separately cast statues but under Indian metaphysical tradition they are the ultimate symbol of cosmic unity, one sustaining the world and maintaining order, and the other, its ultimate instrument. Both images have been identically cast; not merely an exactly similar pedestal, fire-arch, ‘kirttimukha’ on its top, and its entire formation, but even the figures of Vishnu and Lakshmi, the style of their wears, body gestures, perspectives and postures, except what revealed the male and female aspects that they represented, and some of their ornaments, crowns in particular, that defined their status. Not merely the mode of standing even the style of holding their hands is identical.
This unity of the two figures reveal also in other features of the two statues. In Indian iconographic tradition ‘prabhawali’ – fire-arch, symbolizes cosmos. Each of the two statues has its own fire-arch – the cosmos that they pervade, but exactly identical the two fire-arches suggest that they only replicate each other, that is, that neither the pervading divinities are different from each other, nor the cosmos that they pervade. Two independent statues, in modeling them the artist has discovered in them strange parallelism – visually in their forms, and spiritually in their being. Hence, despite that the two metal casts are independent art pieces, for adorning a premise or to grace a sanctum, that is, for beauty or worship, the two statues need to be installed together.
Except their varying heights, Vishnu being taller befitting to male perspective, and positioning of arms, Lakshmi’s in particular, collected close to her body as befits womanly grace and anatomy, and obviously a kind of tenderness enshrining her face, the figures of Vishnu and Lakshmi have been structured pursuing exactly similar norms of modeling, anatomical and iconographic. The four-armed figures of Vishnu and Lakshmi are excellent in modeling, plasticity and ornamentation. There enshrine on the faces of the two figures absolute calm, divinity and divine grace. The four-armed image of Lord Vishnu carries in three of them his most usual attributes, the disc, conch and mace, and the fourth, the normal right, is held in ‘abhaya’. Goddess Lakshmi is carrying in her upper hands lotuses while the normal right is held in ‘abhaya’ – redemption from fear, and normal left, in ‘varada’ – release and accomplishment of the desired. Clad in tight-fitted ‘antariyas’ both figures have been conceived with round faces, sharp features, lotus eyes, slim and tall figures, broad foreheads, well-defined necks and figural anatomy as prescribed for divine icons in canonical scriptures. Besides their towering Vaishnava crowns and characteristic ear-ornaments the figures of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi are richly adorned with ornaments cast with thread-like minute details, precise and outstanding in elegance and beauty.
As represent the two brilliant brass-casts – outstanding in divine aura, the images of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi are installed on two identical multi-tiered squarish podiums under elaborately worked fire-arches. The base moulding of the podium consists of lotus motifs, the second from the bottom is a plain moulding, the moulding over it has been modeled like an inverted lotus, and a plain but highly finished moulding surmounts the total structure. From the corner on the back on the right side there rises a fire-arch which after a full circle terminates on the podium’s left. A full circle, the outer ring of the three-layered fire-arch consists of flames, a chain of flowers comprises the central ring, and stylized lotus-patterns, the inner-most ring. The fire-arch is topped by a ‘kirttimukha’ motif, the symbol of good and auspiciousness.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.