In this series, Lagniappe presents a different work each week from the collection of the New Orleans Museum of Art, with commentary from a curator.
One of the most easily identifiable deities from the Indian subcontinent, Ganesha is worshipped by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, although he is most often identified as the son of the Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati. His identity is proclaimed by his elephant head, stout figure and round belly.
In each of his four arms, he holds an attribute. The mace symbolizes his position as a god of war, and the lasso, Ganesha’s ability to ensnare a devotee. He also holds a broken tusk in his right hand, referencing his role as a guardian and protector. Ganesha’s love of sweets (and the cause of his stout figure), is shown by the treat he holds in his left hand, ready to be consumed. He provides devotees with prosperity by removing obstacles blocking the path to success.
This sculpture was created during the late 12th-13th century, when the Chola kings ruled a large part of south India, including Tamil Nadu, where this work was cast.
Chola bronzes are prized for their great attention to detail, particularly evident in the crown, jewelry and fine clothing that adorn the figure. Cast using the “lost wax,” or cire perdu, method, the wax model made for each statue is destroyed in the casting process, making each Chola bronze a unique work of art.
This sculpture is on view at the New Orleans Museum of Art on the third floor, in the galleries devoted to Indian art.