November 3, 2017
Anonymous-Asia, Krishna and Radha, mid 20th century, ivory, 7 3/8 x 2 9/16 x 1 1/8 inches, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Dr. J. Herbert Millburn, 1987.
Today’s featured work from the MOA collection is a sculptural work carved from ivory. Unity with divinity through complete and selfless adoration, the fundamental goal of bhakti, is exemplified in this delicate carving of the god Krishna and his Beloved, Radha. Krishna and Radha’s sinuous forms are woven together in an affectionate dance of love, while the adoring pair gazes into each other’s eyes. Their entwined embrace is heightened by the delicate strands of jewelry and ornamentation that drape down the figures to the lotus-flower base. Each of Krishna’s four arms holds a manifestation of his power as a resplendent incarnation of Vishnu, and a flaming halo of glory surrounds his head. Even the majestic Krishna has been overcome by the love of his Beloved. Their sublime union serves as inspiration to all devotees who, like Radha, earnestly seek to become one with the divine through love.
Many world cultures have privileged ivory as an artistic medium: 16th-century Benin masks, Inuit carvings, Medieval reliefs of biblical narratives, and many masterworks of Islamic art are just a few of the categories of cultural treasures carved from ivory. Today, nations around the world prohibit ivory harvesting in order to protect endangered species. In recent years, there have been proposals of destroying even historical objects carved from ivory, but most museums feel that these objects of cultural heritage must be preserved even as the medium of ivory will be unavailable to future artists.