Canang Sari statue

Statue of Saraswati with swan, circa 1935-1940, height: 28 cm. Signed with initials TJG and Pita Maha mark. Auctioned in 2010 by Borobudur Auction in Singapore.

This statue of a kneeling woman offering a flower (canang sari), is made by Ida Bagus Menuh from Sanur. Unfortunately I was unable to find any further information about the woodcarver. Based on the modern style, I estimate that the statue was made between 1950 and 1970.

The figurine is carved in an elegant Art Deco style with flowing lines and a beautiful contemplative facial expression. She’s holding a closed lotus bud: the ancient Hindu symbol for a folded soul that has the ability to unfold and open itself up to the divine truth. The opening of the lotus flower bud represents the journey of the human spirit from darkness to enlightenment.

The design of the figurine is probably derived from a woodcarving of the goddess Saraswati seated on a swan, made in the 1930s by a master carver from Pita Maha (see the photo from the auction catalog). As often happened, the Pita Maha statue was copied by other woodcarvers and gradually simplified. The swan and other recognizable details, such as Saraswati’s small crown, have disappeared over the years.

By the way, the copying of sculptures was not seen as plagiarism by the woodcarvers themselves. The idea of copyright was in fact unknown in Balinese arts and crafts. Traditional statues for temples, for example, were made according to a fixed idiom and had to look similar. This practice continued from the 1930s when they started carving statues for the tourists.

Sizes: 27,5 x 6,5 x 14 cm (HxWxD)

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