The author's love for ancient Indian art and several years of intensive research are reflected in the essays included in this book. The essays cover a wide spectrum, from the sensuous to the sublime, from an analysis of narrative Ramayana sculptures, to a discussion of the relevance of Tantrism to erotic temple sculpture, to a study of ancient terracottas in a socio-cultural context. Art and Icon brings together for the first time 16 selected essays from the 90 that Dr. Devangana Desai has written over a period of 35 years, many of which are not easily accessible. These have been edited and updated with new material. The essays are divided into six sections: i) Approaches to Art, ii) Terracotta Art, iii) Iconography, iv) Iconology and Meaning in Art, v) Art and Eroticism, and vi) Narrative Art.
Icons and images, sacred objects of veneration, are generally guided by elaborate rules and conventions detailing their size, sitting or standing postures and hand gestures. Artists have more flexibility when depicting non-iconic subjects. However, the line between art and icon is rather thin as is evident in some magnificent images published in this book. The author reveals the interrelationships and interactions between various fields of art - sculpture, dance and narration of stories - as can be noticed particularly in the articles on the dancing Ganesa, the auspicious motifs of Salabhanjika (woman-and-tree) and surasundari (celestial nymph), and the figures in the narrative sculptural panels. The article ''The Temple as an Ordered Whole - The Iconic Scheme at Khajuraho'' is a significant contribution to an iconological study of temple art.
This well-illustrated book will be valuable to scholars as well as students of Indian art and will also appeal to general readers.