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Figure - Figure


  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Tamil Nadu (made)

  • Date:

    17th Century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Copper alloy

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A portrait of a female devotee and donor, her hands raised in veneration (anjali). She wears a finely decorated waist cloth, with necklace, armbands, bangles, ear-lobe ornaments (patra kundalas); the hair tied up into a large bun (kesabandha), offset at the back in the south Indian manner. She is identified by a Tamil inscription on the circular base as ‘the lady Tirunilakanta of Tiruvarur’, in Tanjavur District. Such a portrait would only be commissioned to accompany - and venerate – a religious donation, be it an icon or shrine. As she is identified, unusually in Tamil culture, by association with her husband, Tiru Nilakanda, in all likelihood she originally accompanied a portrait sculpture of him. Donor portraits are relatively uncommon in Indian temple arts, though royal portraiture was an established practice from Chola period south India, and continued by the Nayak rulers. Interestingly, this was not confined to the royal household and immediate circle, and was emulated by lesser officials, as witnessed by this portrait of the wife of a regional governor.

This finely cast copper alloy image was destined to be placed in a sanctuary nearby to the subject of the donor couple’s gift, be it a shrine, or cult image or a processional icon. In all probability this portrait bronze was donated to the local temple where the lady of Tiruvarur’s husband was serving the Nayak kingdom as a local governor.

Physical description

A standing figure of a female devotee with hands in Anjali mudra. She wears a finely decorated waist cloth; with necklace, armbands, bangles, earrings (patra kundalas); the hair tied up into a large bun at the back. The base bears an inscription in Devanagari and Tamil characters. The inscription on the base reads: TIRUVARUR TIRU NILAKANDA NACCIYAR (a reference to the wife of Tiru-Nilakantar of Tiruvarur).
The figure is mounted on a plain circular pedestal.

Place of Origin

Tamil Nadu (made)


17th Century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Copper alloy


Height: 38 cm, Width: 12 cm, Depth: 12 cm

Object history note

Purchased from E G Copper Esq for £50 (two objects) in 1950

Descriptive line

Standing female devotee, copper alloy, Tanjavur, south India, 17th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Guy, John: 'Indian Temple Sculpture', London V & A Publication, 2007,p.84. pl.94.
ISBN 971851775095

p.205, Cat. 162
L'escultura en el temples indis : l'art de la devoció : exposició organitzada per la Fundació "La Caixa" i el Victoria & Albert Museum, Londres. [Barcelona: Obra social, Fundació "la Caixa", c2007 Number: 9788476649466

Labels and date

Copper alloy
Tiruvarur, Thanjavur
District, South India
Nayak period
16th-17th century

IS.1-1951 [25/09/2000]

Production Note

Thanjavur, Tamilnadu, South India


Copper alloy

Subjects depicted



South & South East Asia Collection

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