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15. Early South Indian Bronze Implement in the form of a Blackbuck Antelope

( ID: ic1264 )

Height: 20.32 cm

Width: 10.16 cm

Weight: .5 lb

Price on request

South Indian bronze work has long been recognized for its quality and workmanship from the pre-modern period 8th century through the 19th century. The Chola Period was especially recognized for the quality and workmanship of deities and other ritual objects cast primarily in the Thanjāvūr and Tiruchchirāppalli Districts of modern Tamil Nadu (Dehejia et. al 2002). The images would be cast by the cire-perdue, or lost-wax, process and received final carving and designs after the mold was opened. Important collections of these South Indian bronzes are housed in the Thanjāvūr Museum and Art Gallery in Tamil Nadu and at the Government Museum in Madras, though southern Indian temples house many other early objects. This tradition continued in the casting and modeling of smaller objects such as this bronze hair implement.

This object is a delicately modeled and cast bronze antelope, most likely a stylized version of a Blackbuck antelope with the twin prongs forming the straight swept-back horns. Antelopes with straight, curved, or both types of horns are found throughout south Indian art and in stone carving representations (Van der Geer 2008). The antelope is also one of the most important animals in south Indian interpretations of Hinduism with Shiva most often represented in south Indian imagery as holding a parashu axe (see Catalog Nr. 12) and an antelope in either hand (see Christies Sale 11418, Lot Nr. 22 for a Chola period interpretation of Shiva in this manner). Overall, the design reminds one of European Renaissance period bronzes in the sweep and line of the antelope, which appears to be in mid-flight. The patina also indicates significant age as does the quality of the workmanship used in the modeling. Dating an object of this form is difficult but conservatively we would date it to the 18th century. Of pleasing weight and size, the use of this object would have been as a hair detangler used by both men and women in south India where hair oil is used extensively.


Paul F. Walter


Christie’s. 17 March 2015. The Collection of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Part I - Masterworks Including Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art, Chinese and Japanese Works of Art

Dehejia, V., Davis, R.H., Nākacāmi, I., and Pechilis, K. (2002) The sensuous and the sacred: Chola bronzes from South India. Seattle: University of Washington Press

Van der Geer, A. (2008). Animals in stone: Indian mammals sculptured through time. Leiden: Brill Publishing ​

Photo #1 of 15. Early South Indian Bronze Implement in the form of a Blackbuck Antelope
Photo #2 of 15. Early South Indian Bronze Implement in the form of a Blackbuck Antelope