Vietnam
Image of a Goddess, Possibly Uma
Champa period, 9th/10th century

Bronze
74.7 x 23.5 x 23.5 cm (29 3/8 x 9 1/4 x 9 1/4 in.)
Kate S. Buckingham Fund, 1999.248

Although her attributes do not offer positive identification, this four-armed goddess appears to be Uma, also known as Parvati, the divine mate of the Hindu god Shiva. She is daughter of the Himalayas, who waited for Shiva to court her, singing and dancing and making herself beautiful. But the ascetic Shiva took no notice. She then sought to impress him by living an austere life herself. She was so committed to this path that she changed the color of her skin from its original black to gold. In this form she became know as Uma, which means "light" or "beauty." This southern Vietnamese figure made of golden bronze has developed a green patina, giving it the appearance of precious jade.

The goddess's sturdy and well-proportioned body parallels the south Indian model of youthful, feminine beauty—full breasts and elongated thighs, appropriate to a deity who symbolizes fertility. But her face—smiling full lips, broad nostrils, and gracefully arched and joined eyebrows—and style of her sarong reflect an understanding of ideal beauty expressed in art of the ancient Cham Kingdom of southern Vietnam. This powerful kingdom, which flourished for almost 1,000 years, beginning in the third century A.D., produced examples of both Hindu and Buddhist art.