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Cow Suckling a Calf

A sandstone sculpture of a cow, its head turned out toward the viewer, with a baby calf suckling underneath.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A sandstone sculpture of a cow, its head turned out toward the viewer, with a baby calf suckling underneath.


About 9th century


Madhya or Uttar Pradesh

About this artwork

This naturalistic relief panel depicts a calf sucking milk from his mother while she stands patiently looking out at the viewer. Her placid eyes; floppy ears; undulating dewlap; small, upwardly curving horns; and hump help identify her as belonging to the distinctive breed of Brahman cattle originally bred in India. Cows enjoy a respected status in India: they are regarded as the nourishing mother, as portrayed in this frieze, and even their waste is used in purification rituals and for fuel.

In the medieval period in India, the cow came to be particularly associated with Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, who grew up in Vrindavan (near Mathura) among cowherds, a theme much celebrated in art. Less common are individual portrayals of a cow and calf, like this relief, which most likely came from the walls of a Hindu temple, possibly from central India, and can be dated to around the ninth century. It is possible that this relief was once part of a larger narrative scene on a temple wall, perhaps depicting Krishna among cows and cowherds.


On View, Gallery 141


Arts of Asia


Cow Suckling a Calf


India (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

801 CE–900 CE




55.3 × 73.7 × 9.6 cm (22 3/4 × 29 × 3 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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