10. Shiva Bhikshatana
India, Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh
Very finely carved holding a damaru behind his head, adorned with various necklaces, the bearded face tilted upwards with cleft chin, bow-shaped mouth and almond-shaped eyes framed by gently arching brows, the hair in thick locks and arranged on his head in a bun.
The present work depicts Shiva in the form of the beggar Bhikshatana (literally, "wandering for alms"). After he severs Brahma's head in a disagreement, Shiva atones for his error by taking on the form of the wandering mendicant Bhikshatana, carrying Brahma's skull as a begging bowl. While the iconography of Bhikshatana changes considerably with location and date, he is almost always depicted nude. In one sense, his lack of clothing evokes the humility of his mendicant status; conversely, it is also his most erotic form. Women who looked upon Bhikshatana were said to have been irrevocably smitten with the Lord.
Provenance: Collection of Alice Boney, New York and Tokyo.
Art Loss Register Certificate, ref. S00090111