This Is Not a Sculpture: Displaying Indian Religious Figures in Museums

View of an exterior wall of a Medieval Indian temple crowded with sculpted figures
Lakshmana Temple, Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, mid-10th century
Photo Louise Deglin

The collection of medieval Indian works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York includes a captivating figure of a celestial dancer, or devata, who seems entirely freed from  from the heavy, inanimate material in which she was carved—so lively is her movement and strong her expression. Although this devata has been traditionally identified as a sculpture, it would be more accurate to consider it an architectural fragment; this is also the case of all other examples of what “Western” museums value as statuary from the early medieval Indian period (7th-13th centuries).

Read more in the first issue of Convergence.

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