The work of art that I am examining is a wood carving piece depicting three forms of the Hindu god Shiva. Created in the 19th century in India, the identity of the creator is unknown. It is carved from a sheet of wood with an outer border embellished with vines and flowers. The inner space depicts three different forms of Shiva along with about a dozen other smaller figures surrounding them carved with negative space, causing the figures to “pop out” of the background. The vine-motif border, as well as the figures have highly detailed carvings on their clothing but relatively little texture or embellishment on their visible portions of their bodies or faces. Over top of the wood carving a solid coat of dull grey paint has been evenly spread. Signs of wear are visible on the two century old piece, as the wood is splitting in places, revealing the unpainted surface underneath and splinters of wood have fallen off the edges of the carving.
The piece is highly representational, despite the non-human features of the figures involved. Some of the forms of Shiva portrayed have extra arms, yet all the features are very clearly intended to be recognized as particular parts of plants, specific body parts or certain articles of clothing. The three Shiva depictions (The three-headed Creator Preserver and Destroyer, Shiva’s wedding and Shiva as the Lord of Dance) seem to be emphasized by the presence of other figures. The roughly dozen other similar but smaller figures surrounding the three Shiva carvings appear to be in place to make each Shiva appear larger by comparison, as the smaller individuals do not differ perceptibly nor have any obvious relevance to the particular form of Shiva that they are adjacent to. It also appears that scale, rather than type is the contrast emphasized, as the smaller figures share the same type of body parts and articles of clothing in style as the three Shiva depictions.