Central Asia, India, region of Bengal, Pala Empire, ca. 8th to 12th centuries CE. A black chlorite schist panel carved with a high-relief, openwork devotional image of the god Vishnu. He wears his characteristic conical hat, a skirt, and rich ornament. He stands flanked by two attendants: his consort and goddess in her own right Lakshmi, who holds a fly whisk, and Sarasvati, goddess of arts and learning, who plays a stringed musical instrument. To indicate his divine status, he stands atop a lotus, with each of his four hands holding an item or doing something of importance: his sacred weapons, the mace and the discus, a conch shell representing the power of creation, and one hand palm out in a gesture of charity. Above him are two further attendants who are each playing stringed instruments, while below him is his sacred mount, Rama the ox, and another partial human figure whose identity is obscured by ancient loss. Size: 8.5" W x 14.3" H (21.6 cm x 36.3 cm); 16.3" H (41.4 cm) on included custom stand.
Vishnu is a blue-skinned, four-armed deity central to Hinduism: the protector and preserver of the world to Brahma's creator and Shiva's destroyer. Temples in Pala were built of brick, with carved stone images like this one set into wall niches. The Pala Empire was the last major Buddhist power in India, although their sculptural art, as here, often includes Hindu elements and iconography. They are well known for their sculpture, which was influenced by the Gupta period, and in turn influenced artwork in Tibet, Nepal, and Southeast Asia.
See a similar example from the National Gallery of Australia: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/vishnu-with-attendants/gAFxVOgm5smoEA
Provenance: ex-private San Francisco, California, USA collection
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Weathering and losses on surface commensurate with age. The most notable loss is from the lower corner. Deposits in lower profile areas.