Saint Andal
India, state of Tamil Nadu, Tanjavur, 20th century. Opaque watercolor and gold on textile mounted on board. Lent by a private collection.

Saint Andal, a surprisingly versatile poet and devotee of Vishnu, lived in southern India around the year 800. Andal's poetry is full of the intensity of her longing for union with her chosen lord, Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu. In this image wide-eyed Andal, represented as a garlanded icon standing on a pink lotus, gestures benevolently from a temple niche, and is flanked on both sides by a Vaishnava priest (one devoted to Vishnu) in an attitude of devotion. The gold relief technique, which arose from the application of a paste of sawdust and glue before the design was modeled and gilded, was applied to a cloth surface that was made to adhere to a board pasted upon a wooden support. This image, produced for use in homes, would have hung within a garden shrine or puja room.

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Saint Andal