Vishnu with four hands is in sleeping position, attended by his consorts Sri Devi and Bhu Devi. One of them cooling Vishnu with a fan and the other appears to give Vishnu foot massage. Vishnu is holding Chakra and Shanka (Discuss and conch) in his hands. One of his other hands is supporting his head and the other is stretched along his left leg.
Seven-headed Sesha, the name for this particular snake, is over Vishnu’s head. Vishnu and his consorts are sitting on the platform/bed by Sesha with his body coiled around (surprisingly anti-clockwise) for elevation.
The whole group is placed on a rectangular platform, Bhadrapeetha, which is supported by four legs. The legs have some figures, lion(?), carved on them. The backplate, Prabhavali, is missing. Also missing is Brahma sitting on lotus emanating from Vishnu’s navel. The hole in Vishnu’s stomach is due to the missing Brahma.
The sculpture is hollow except for the solid figures of Vishnu and his consorts.
The sculpture is well worn, there is bronze loss and there are few cracks in the metal sheet. Some ways these help in authenticating the piece as bronze used in worship. Also, help in estimating the age.
Vishnu in cosmic sleep is one of the most important forms, other than his avatars. Though this is the principal icon in several important Vishnu temples all over India and Nepal, metal images either used in festival procession or for personal devotion, like this one, are relatively few.
The serpent is also called Anantha and hence the name Ananthasayana, the one who sleeps on Anantha.
This image is also known as Padmanabha, ‘he who has lotus navel’ and Ranganatha, ‘the lord of the Ranga – the assembly hall’. In the paintings of Ananthasayana, the central figure of Vishnu is surrounded by all other gods as if in an assembly hall.
This icon is about 9.5 cm in height and 9 cm in width. I will go with the seller’s assessment of the 17th century as the age and I will go with that.
Use of copper and the fine quality suggests this may be from Tamil Nadu.
Norton Simon Museum has a similar figure. Refer Dr P Pal’s book on Asian Art at the Norton Simon Museum Volume 1 Item no 203/page 279.
4 Dec 2020: Continuing with the idea of showing depicts of bronzes in other mediums, added a chromolithograph of Ananta Sai.