Sculpted in hard basalt stone, this charming image of a young
Indian humped bull (bos indicus) is ceremonially decorated with
chains, bells and ornaments. It would have occupied a prominent
position in one of the thousands of Indian temple complexes devoted
to the god Siva. The bull reclines with one foreleg tucked aside
and the other half-raised; he licks his nostril with his tongue.
This Nandi bull has the typically sweet and beguiling expression
of Indian bovines, which has made them a favourite animal subject
for Indian sculptors and painters over the centuries.
The sculpture is beautifully carved with full, rounded volumes
and smoothly flowing planes, relieved by intricate surface ornament,
which are typical of the Indian sculptor’s art. Compare
for example, in case 3 on the right, the differing treatment of
the little gold figure of a (non-Asiatic) bull from ancient Bactria
or Ganhara (modern Afganistan and Pakistan), where Greco-Roman
naturalistic influences were strong in the late centuries BC and
early centuries AD.