A Chandracatunga pottery vase, painted clay

2nd century BC, Shunga period, Bengal, India

Height: 15.5 cm Diameter: 8.5 cm

This is a terracotta vessel, which was painted into a grey-coloured body and shaped with a combination of moulding and incising techniques. Decorated at the rim is a banded, double-lotus pattern, while the upper register of the neck depicts a dream-like scene of men and women seated in a forest of flowers in various stages of growth. The vessel’s lower register appears to be of a mono-scenic narrative with scenes delineated by the use of trees and architectural forms. Within one architectural space is a seated woman, accompanied by a kitten and peafowl, an attendant holding a fly whisk (chauri), and a man cupping her breast. Despite the universal fashion of a large, knotted turban, rounded earrings, a pleated, diaphanous dhoti, and anklets and bracelets, the symbolism of royalty that is associated with the fly whisk and the use of hierarchical scaling strongly suggests that she is a Queen. Within another architectural framed scene is a seated man playing a stringed instrument (vina) supported by a drummer.

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