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Unknown | India | Untitled (Chauri bearers) 16th century | Copper alloy on metal veneer on wood | Purchased 2011 with funds from the Henry and Amanda Bartlett Trust through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Untitled (Chauri bearers) 16th century

These works are originally from the state of Orissa in Eastern India, which was ruled by the Eastern Ganga dynasty and flourished until the sixteenth century. In Orissa, bronze sculptures were produced for both ritual and domestic use, the region is known for its refined temple architecture, and is one of the major Hindu pilgrimage centres in India.

Each figure bears a chauri or fly whisk, traditionally made from the bushy tail of the Tibetan yak set into an elaborately decorated handle. A symbol of royalty in ancient times, important figures would be framed by a pair of chauri attendants who would accompany them, even on horseback with the chauri attached to the side of the horse. The chauri is one of the treasures Lakshmi carries at Vishnu’s side as his consort and is representative of Krishna’s consort and beloved Radha, one of the young gopis who aided Krishna, as described in the poem ‘Bhagavad Gita’, a principal story in the Mahabharata.

Bejeweled and upright with broad hips and rounded breasts, the figures have voluptuous proportions, and exude a tactile and sensual quality. The face is quietly expressive withfaint lines for eyes; a device that allowed viewers to identify themselves with the figure it represented. Multiple strands of necklaces are coiled around the neck and chest with one descending in a loop between the breasts to a bare torso. Each arm is adorned with three elaborate bangles as well as an elbow ornament, and a draped skirt clings closely to her limbs, held in place by a multi-strand belt. The physical attributes—rounded shapes, sensual curves, full breasts and a broad physique—are typical of the Orissan style.