This set of folk bronzes is from Bengal. The painting of eyes is typical of folk art in that part of India. One of the well-known painters, Jamini Roy, was inspired by this folk style.
These three bronzes are part of a group. They were sold together, I went back three sellers in the chain. Luckily they have remained as a group. The patination is deep and is the same for all the three pieces. The styling is the same and thus support the assumption that they are a group.
One of the male figures is slightly taller than the second male figure. The bronzes are totally devoid of ornamentation or any signs of wealth. Even the pierced ears are left unadorned. There are remnants of paint red, white, gold and black.
My theory is these three figures represent Rama, Lakshman and Sita when they were in Vanavasa or in exile.
- One of the male figure being taller makes sense and that figure represents Rama
- They are not wearing crown or ornaments is in line with the conditions of Vanavasa
- The hand pose represents the holding of bow and arrow. Refer to the painting Met museum.
- Their attire is simple and reflects the austere life they are expected to live.
- The hairstyle matches that in the met museum painting.
I have come across Kalghat paintings representing this trio in Vanavasa and but this is the first set of bronzes I have seen. These figures are solid cast and their heights are 14 cm, 13.5 cm and 13 cm. This may not date prior to the 19th century.
21 May 2018: Comments received from Pritesh below:
Please note your Sita, Rama, Lakshman images are not necessarily depicting ‘Vanavasa’. The reason why these images are without ornaments is that they are typical of north Indian images created specifically for Vaishnava devotional worship, which involves elaborate dressing and adornment. The deities are thus created very plain and simple so that they can be easily dressed and adorned. For example the holes in the ears are there so that real earnings can be offered to the deities. Also the pleats have been left out from the lower garments so that real fabrics can be tied on woven in between the legs. There are no crowns, so that real crowns can be tied or fixed on. The little topknot acts a anchor point for fabrics and threads. Deities that are cast/carved with heavy ornamentation leave little scope for the devotee to add their own creative touch and also are harder to dress