Fragmentary Head and Torso of a Nobleman North Central India. Gupta Dynasty, 5th century AD. Terracotta. 2001.1.11. Ester R. Portnow Collection of Asian Art, a Gift of the Nathan Rubin-Ida Ladd Family Foundation.
Stone sculpture of the Gupta era, which set the tone for much of later Indian art, is almost unattainable. This terracotta, though only a fragment, gives some sense of the sophistication of Gupta art.
Chandragupta I (AD 319-335) was the first emperor to gain significant power and authority beyond northern India. This period has been known as the Golden Era, and witnessed a great florescence of what isnow called "classical" Indian art, literature, dance, poetry, and sculpture. Each of these artistic forms was grounded in Hindu mythology. The Guptas thus sponsored the earliest unified iconographic program in Hindu art, and did so enthusiastically.
The Guptas had a great fondness for sculptural and somewhat whimsical ornamentation on doorways and pillars. This figure would probably have stood at the entrance to a temple or other public building, where it gave a blessing to those entering and leaving. His topknot suggests spiritual attainment, as do his extended earlobes. It is our hope that it blesses you as you enter and leave the exhibit.
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