The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 18, 2018

Railing Pillar, 100s

red sandstone, Overall: h. 80 cm (31 7/16 in.). John L. Severance Fund 1977.34

This pillar from the railing of a Buddhist monument demonstrates Lee's penchant for the unusual and the beautiful, as it reflects the influence of Hellenistic culture on Indian art, specifically Gandharan Buddhist sculptures with bacchanalian themes (madhupana).
The pillar depicts female figures who, seemingly intoxicated, play instruments and dance. Vessels-such as a large two-handled vase (kantharos) and a broken rhyton-allude to the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. The grapevines and the celestial musicians-who play a lyre, castanets, and a triangular harp-also evoke bacchanalian connotations.
Two additional scenes decorate the base. First, a hunchbacked woman pours wine for an obese male fertility figure (yaksha). The second scene probably illustrates the story of the ogress who ate her victims before falling in love and marrying a young Brahmin, with whom she bore a bodhisattva.
The Sikri sandstone from which the pillar was made suggests that a Mathura artist trained in the Gandharan tradition created the piece.

Cleveland Museum of Art (11/13/1985-1/15/1986), Asia Society Galleries, NYC (2/13-4/6/1986), and Seattle Art Museum (5/13-7/13/1986): "Kushan Sculpture: Images from Early India"

The Cleveland Museum of Art (06/28/2009 - 08/30/2009); "Streams and Mountains Without End: Asian Art and the Legacy of Sherman E. Lee at the Cleveland Museum of Art"

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

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