Nepalese sculptures in our collection are created primarily by the Newars, one of Nepal's many ethnic groups, in the Kathmandu valley, an
area encompassing about 200 square miles in central Nepal.
Predominantly Buddhist, Newari artists became renowned throughout Asia
for the high quality of their work. At times, Nepalese style had
tremendous influence on the art of China and Tibet, as both countries
imported art and artists from Nepal to adorn their temples and
The majority of these sculptures were created in the service of
religion, and although most of the artists were Buddhist, neither a
Hindu nor a Buddhist style is noticeable. As in medieval India, the
same artists probably produced art for both religions. Nepal is one of
the few places in the world where Buddhism and Hinduism have coexisted
peacefully for nearly 2,000 years. Although Hinduism is the state
religion, the two religions are not only historically entwined but also
share many similar aspirations that make them far less distinguishable
than in theory. At the popular level in Nepal, it makes little or no
difference whether one receives blessings from a Hindu or Buddhist deity
as long as that deity is virtuous and powerful.
Nepalese sculptors worked in many different mediums, including stone,
metal, wood, and terracotta. Their metal sculptures are either heavily
gilded or have a slightly reddish/brown patina that derives from their
high copper content. Many of these, especially later ones, are
decorated with inlaid semi-precious stones. Wooden sculptures were
generally architectural, many serving as pillars to support roofs, door
frames or as decorations. Works in terracotta are comparatively rare
except in the making of jars in or near the Bhaktapur region.
Nepalese sculpture is a conservative tradition, with slight changes in
proportion or decorative details appearing over hundreds of years.
Stylistically, Nepalese sculpture grew out of the art of Gupta India and
was later was influenced by that of Pala India. However, Nepalese
artists created a distinctive style of their own, which can be
recognized even on early bronzes dating back to the sixth to seventh
century. Nepalese artists later developed a distinctive style for their
deities, with long, languid eyes and wider faces than those found in
south India. A tendency towards ornamental, exaggerated postures and a
repertoire of unique jewelry styles along with floral motifs are also
characteristics of Nepalese sculptural tradition.