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Arts of Asia

The MFAH collections of art from China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia reflect Houston’s diverse communities. Ancient and contemporary works are displayed together to create innovative juxtapositions.


6th century

33 1/8 x 24 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by "One Great Night in November, 2004"; "Polo in India: A Great Tradition," with gifts from Sesh and Prabha Bala, Dr. and Mrs. A. P. Raghuthaman, Mr. and Mrs. Ashok Rao; the Friends of Asian Art, with gifts from Mr. and Mrs. Edward R. Allen III, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Daly, Mr. and Mrs. John Goodman, Dr. and Mrs. Ninan Mathew, Drs. Usha and Kumara Peddamatham, Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson, and the Caroline Wiess Law Foundation; with additional gifts from Terry Huffington and Ralph Ernest Dittman, Dr. and Mrs. Peter Sullivan, and Mr. and Mrs. Gordon E. Nicklos, by exchange

Arts of Asia

Sarasvati is the Hindu goddess of learning and the arts. She is the consort of Brahma, the god of creation and source of all knowledge. Because Brahma created Sarasvati from his own flesh and blood, she is often regarded as the embodiment of knowledge and creativity.  

This sandstone representation draws attention to Sarasvati's importance as the divine patron of the arts. As in many depictions, she is seen here seated upon a sacred lotus blossom, the symbol of supreme knowledge and spiritual truth. An avid musician, Sarasvati is shown playing a musical instrument called a veena. The neck and base of the veena can still be seen on this figure, though the body of the instrument is no longer intact.  

Sarasvati is depicted with a serene smile as she sways gently to the music. Her attendants dance around her, one accompanying Sarasvati on a flute and another on a small drum. Because of Sarasvati's importance in all things intellectual and artistic, many students, scholars, poets, musicians, painters, and sculptors look to her for guidance and support.