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Sculpture, 'The Hindu Deity Camadeva with his mistress on a crocodile'. SM A12. ©Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Photo: Lewis Bush
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Thomas Banks RA (1735 - 1805), sculptor

The Hindu Deity Camadeva with his mistress on a crocodile


Painted plaster

Height: 61cm
Width: 63.5cm

Museum number: A12

Not on display

Curatorial note

Kamadeva ('Camadeva' was the spelling Soane used), the Hindu god of love, prepares to fire one of his flower-tipped arrows of desire from his sugarcane bow, strung with honey bees, as his wife Rati (passion) advises him on his choice of target. Kamadeva is usually shown riding a peacock or parrot and Banks may have chosen a crocodile as a more sculptural support.

The title of the sculpture is taken from the catalogue of Banks’s studio sale of 1805 (lots 66, 67, 68) which records, in plaster, the mould and a cast. The items in the sale may not have included this plaster version for it is referred to in 1830 by Soane in a way that implies it was a gift from the sculptor: ‘For the beautiful Model of a dying Patriot, and the cast of the Creshna [Krishna] of the Indians, I am indebted to my esteemed friend the late Thomas Banks, R. A.’.1 The sculpture is shown in a sketch of c.1822-5 on top of the bookcases on the East side of Soane’s Library.2 By 1826 it was on display in a prominent position in the 'Lobby to the Breakfast Room' which Soane created in c.1824-25 on the ground floor of his Museum (restored 2016) and the sculpture can now be seen again in that position.

The origins of this group are suggested by the lotting up of it by Christie’s in 1805 with models for two chimneypieces for Warren Hastings that had been exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1792 (cats. 46, 47). The chimneypieces had been designed with Indian atttributes for Daylesford, Hastings' estate in Gloucestershire. The former Governor General of Bengal might have suggested the subject of this sculpture to Banks with a view to its reproduction for the Indian market.

A loose sketch of the same composition by the sculptor John Flaxman, presumably made from memory in 1794, inscribed by him T. Banks, is pasted in a sketchbook and album used by Flaxman in Rome between 1787 and 1794 (John Murray Collection).

1 Soane, Description, 1830 p.3.
2 SM Vol. 82, 5. The sheet is watermarked 1822 but most of the drawings in the Volume are dated 1825.

This note is based on the entry written by Dr Julius Bryant, with the assistance of Helen Dorey, Deputy Director of Sir John Soane's Museum, for the exhibition Thomas Banks: Britain's first modern sculptor, Sir John Soane's Museum, 2005.

This sculpture is currently on display in the Royal Academy exhibition Entangled Pasts, 1768–now: Art, Colonialism and Change, 3 February – 28 April 2024. The exhibition brings together more than 100 major works by leading contemporary artists alongside works by artists from the past 250 years – 'creating connections across time which explore questions of power, representation and history'.


Soane, Description, 1830 p.3
Soane, Description, 1835 p.
Julius Bryant, Thomas Banks: Britain First Modern Sculptor (London, Sir John Soane's Museum, 2005), pp.45-6.
Sarah Monks, 'Making Love: Thomas Banks' Camadeva and the Discourses of British India c.1790' in Visual Culture in Britain, 11:2, 2010, pp.195-218

Exhibition history

Thomas Banks 1735-1805: Britain's First Modern Sculptor, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 21 January - 9 April 2005

Soane collections online is being continually updated. If you wish to find out more or if you have any further information about this object please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk