Close-up of a devata (celestial dancer), a medieval Indian stone sculpture

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

Asia | ISSUE 01
by Johan Levillain

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).[...]

Celestial dancer, fragment of architectural setting Uttar Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh, mid-11th century © Metropolitan Museum of Art

Read the full article in Convergence #1