Shiva Bearing Aloft the Body of His Sati

Shiva Bearing Aloft the Body of His Sati

c. 1890

Watercolor, graphite, ink, and tin on paper

Secondary Support: 48 x 29.1 cm (18 7/8 x 11 7/16 in.); Painting only: 45.6 x 27.8 cm (17 15/16 x 10 15/16 in.)

Gift of William E. Ward in memory of his wife, Evelyn Svec Ward 2003.131

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Description

This unusual image portrays Shiva holding aloft the corpse of his wife Sati with his trident. Sati immolated herself because of the hostility directed toward her husband Shiva by her father Daksha. The shadowy figure with blood emerging from the nose and heart is reminiscent of images of death (mrtu pat) found among the magic painter-minstrels (jada patua) of the Santal tribals of Bihar. The shadow is missing its right hand. In this connection, Shiva carried his wife until Vishnu cut the body into pieces that fell onto the earth and were made into shrines. The provocative title given to the piece when it was acquired was Shiva Bearing Aloft the Body of His Spouse Who Has Died in Childbirth. There is, however, no evidence of a myth concerning this theme, thus making this piece even more unusual.

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