The first image in our survey is from the Andhra period in India, c. 0 BC/AD. It is of a Yakshi from the Stupa at Sanchi. She hangs from a gateway which leads to the sacred mound which houses a relic of the Buddha. A yakshi is a female fertility spirit, the equivalent of a Western sprite, fairy, or nymph.

 

Anatomy: minimal to no muscles or bones; the body parts are abstracted into cylinders, spheres and other geometric forms. Proportion: large round head, narrow shoulders, skinny tubular arms, tremendous breasts, tiny waist, and smooth, stocky legs. Mass: hills and valleys accentuate the roundness of those features and body parts. Biologically accurate? No, the sculptor ignored surface details meant to define the naked truth. The use of abstraction for the limbs is more akin to Leger’s metallic women than again, the naked truth. Proportions overemphasize the sensual body parts. As the yakshi symbolizes fertility in nature, her body is the epitome of healthy innocence. Now, how do we conclude that this is “nude” and not “naked”? 

The body is composed of an assemblage of geometric units without the natural concept of the body as a harmonious, organic unit. Though there is a rounded form to the limbs, the roundness is not biologically determined. In Asia, this is called prana.  Specifically, prana is the blown up roundness, puffiness, in bodily forms. To draw a parallel, everyone has seen the commercial on television where a husband and wife have just dined at a friend’s house and as soon as they get into their car, blow up like balloons. One takes an anti-gas pill and deflates. Though not related to gassy foods, prana is spiritual air pressure that builds up inside a body and presses out against the skin smoothening out its surface.  Obviously, only beings who are spiritual in nature (like the yakshi) or other religious role models exhibit prana.  Another Neoplatonic gesture is the zigzag pose called “the body of the three bends.”  The sculptor did not want his sculpture to be ambiguously earthly in the least. Due to the anatomical issues, prana, and “body of the three bends,” no one would confuse this female with ordinary humanity. Again, 0% science and 100% disegno interno.