Nepal, Licchavi Dynasty
8th–9th century
Gilt copper alloy
26.7 cm (10 ½ in)

This finely-rendered early Nepalese figure of Vishnu depicts the deity standing in sambhanga on a rectangular plinth and surmounted by a flaming nimbus.  He holds his four attributes: a mace in the upper left hand, a conch in the lower left hand, a flaming chakra in the upper right hand, and a lotus bud in the lower right hand, and his body is adorned with heavy foliate earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and armlets. The sculpture demonstrates the sensitivity of modelling and graceful beauty of Licchavi period sculpture.

The Licchavi dynasty originated in Northern Bihar, India, used Sanskrit as a court language, and even issued Indian-style coins. It maintained close ties to India and while also having economic and political relations with Tibet, thus becoming a cultural centre linking central and southern Asia. The Licchavi aesthetic was deeply rooted in North Indian artistic traditions. Characterised by soft rounded modelling and lanquid forms, the Sarnath style of sculpture from the Gupta period had an immense influence on Nepalese art.