Central Asia, India, region of Bengal, Pala Empire, ca. 8th to 12th centuries CE. A huge black schist stele panel, carved to depict the god Kartikeya, also known as Muruga, and Skanda, the Hindu god of war. The god is shown here flanked by attendants at top and bottom, with four arms (one of which is partially lost), one holding a staff, one holding a rooster, which, alongside the peacock, is the god's vahana. Kartikeya is an ancient god, traceable to the Vedic period (mid 2nd to mid 1st millennium BCE). The figure wears a dramatic, tiered tripartite crown as well as jewelry on the legs, arms, and neck, and a small belt and loincloth. He stands atop an integral platform, with a wavy arch and columns carved behind him. Size: 7.1" L x 16" W x 31.75" H (18 cm x 40.6 cm x 80.6 cm); 32" H (81.3 cm) on included custom stand.
The Pala Empire was the last major Buddhist power in India, although their art, as here, often includes Hindu elements and iconography. They are particularly well known for their sculpture, which was influenced by the Gupta period. Most Hindu deities are believed to be the embodiment of beauty, with sculpted figures and fine facial features. Images like this one are made as idealized forms and with symbolism and meaning that would have been readily apparent to the audience it was made for. They were carved to adorn private family shrines and altars as well as temples. The god's athletic form, with a slender waist and tilt to the hips, emphasizes his divinity and shows us what was considered male beauty when he was carved.
See a slightly smaller Pala stone stele that sold at Christie's for USD $134,500 in 2012: https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-black-stone-stele-of-vishnu-northeast-5594027-details.aspx
Provenance: ex-Boris Mussienko collection, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, USA, acquired in the 1980s
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One of the four arms is lost. Otherwise the figure is in really nice condition for its age, with small losses, chips, nicks, and scratches from its edges and peripheries.