When the deer wounded
by his arrow ran deep into the woods, Raja Dushyant followed his prey, only to
stumble upon the mistress of the deer, Shakuntala. Daughter of sage Vishwamitra and the beauteous Apsara (celestial nymph) Menaka, Shakuntala appeared to
Dushyant as the most exquisite maiden on earth, comparable only to Sri Lakshmi herself, in virtues and beauty. The character of Shakuntala, her birth, meeting
Dushyant, and the tender events that followed have been a favorite theme of
Indian art since their first descriptions in the great Hindu epic- Mahabharata.
Later, poet-dramatist Kalidasa penned his great composition-
“Abhigyanashakuntalam”, based on the moving saga of Shakuntala. This large
wooden Shakuntala playing with a deer recreates the scene that Dushyant’s eye’s
witnessed in the grooves of Kanva Rishi’s ashrama- Shakuntala surrounded by the
loveliness of nature, the epitome of femininity.
On a lotus pedestal stands Shakuntala with her legs
positioned in the Ardhaparanyakasana (right leg raised in the air), striking
the most enchanting posture. Flora and fauna halo her form- from the deer she
holds between her right leg, the bird sitting on her left hand, a parrot
perched on her upraised right hand to the floral vines reaching their fruition,
nature as Shakuntala’s ornamentation has been used in this large wooden statue.
Her hair is tied in a neat updo, she wears intricate ornaments and a diaphanous
green dhoti matching the greenery of her environs. The maker of this large wooden
Shakuntala has given her elongated eyes, arched eyebrows, fine nose, and
delicate lips whose slight smile took away the great king Dushyant’s breath.
Figures of females in the prime of their youth, surrounded
by vegetation and animals are a common motif in ancient Indian art tradition.
Youthful females bring auspiciousness, fecundity, and fortune into space. This
wooden Shakuntala statue draws from tradition brilliantly. The muted shades
used in the colors of the figure and the lacquered texture of her flawless body
bring a distinctive aesthetic touch to the composition. A bunch of flowers hangs from the top center
of the floral aureole of Shakuntala from which a parrot relaxedly drinks the sweet
nectar just as Dushyant relished in the essence of Shakuntala’s blossomed
How to care for Wood Statues?
Wood is extensively used in sculpting especially in countries like China, Germany, and Japan. One feature that makes the wood extremely suitable for making statues and sculptures is that it is light and can take very fine detail. It is easier for artists to work with wood than with other materials such as metal or stone. Both hardwoods, as well as softwood, are used for making sculptures. Wood is mainly used for indoor sculptures because it is not as durable as stone. Changes in weather cause wooden sculptures to split or be attacked by insects or fungus. The principal woods for making sculptures and statues are cedar, pine, walnut, oak, and mahogany. The most common technique that sculptors use to make sculptures out of wood is carving with a chisel and a mallet. Since wooden statues are prone to damage, fire, and rot, they require proper care and maintenance.
It is extremely important to preserve and protect wooden sculptures with proper care. A little carelessness and negligence can lead to their decay, resulting in losing all their beauty and strength. Therefore, a regular clean-up of the sculptures is a must to prolong their age and to maintain their shine and luster.
Wood has been a preferred material for sculptures and statues
since ancient times. It is easy to work with than most metals and
stones and therefore requires less effort to shape it into any
desired shape or form. The texture of the wood gives an element of
realism to the sculpture. The selection of an appropriate wood
type is necessary for carving. Woods that are too resinous or
coniferous are not considered good for carving as their fiber is
very soft and thus lacks strength. On the other hand, wood such as
Mahogany, Oakwood, Walnut wood, Weet cherry wood, etc., are
preferred by sculptors because their fiber is harder.
A wood sculptor uses various tools such as a pointed chisel in one
hand and a mallet in another to bring the wood to the desired
measurement and to make intricate details on it. A carving knife
is used to cut and smooth the wood. Other tools such as the gouge,
V-tool, and coping saw also serve as important tools in wood
carving. Although the wood carving technique is not as complex and
tough as stone carving or metal sculpting, nonetheless, a wood
carver requires a high level of skills and expertise to create a
The process of wood carving begins with selecting a chunk of wood
that is required according to the type and shape of the statue to
be created by the sculptor. Both hardwoods and softwoods are used
for making artistic pieces, however, hardwoods are preferred more
than softer woods because of their durability and longevity. But
if heavy detailing is to be done on the statue, wood with fine
grain would be needed as it would be difficult to work with
Once the wood type is selected, the wood carver begins the
general shaping process using gouges of various sizes. A gouge
is a tool having a curved cutting edge which is useful in
removing large unwanted portions of wood easily without
splitting the wood. The sculptor always carves the wood across
the grain of the wood and not against it.
When a refined shape of the statue is obtained, it is time for
making details on the statue using different tools. This is
achieved by using tools such as a veiner to make and a V-tool to
create decorative and sharp cuts.
Once finer details have been added, the sculptor is ready to
smoothen the surface and give it a perfect finish. Tools such as
rasps and rifflers are used to get a smooth surface. The finer
polishing is obtained by rubbing the surface with sandpaper. If
a textured surface is required, this step is skipped. Finally,
to protect the statue from excessive dirt accumulation, the
sculptor applies natural oils such as walnut or linseed oil all
over it. This also brings a natural sheen to the statue.
Wood statues are lighter in weight and less expensive than metal
or stone pieces. Because wood is prone to fast decay by fungus and
algae, statues made out of this material are not preferred to be
kept outside. The rich tradition of wood carving in countries such
as Africa, Egypt, India, and Nepal has been followed for many
centuries. Indian craftsmen are specialized in this classic art
and continue to exhibit their extraordinary artistic skills.
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