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  • Perhaps the most frequent use of art as a means of connecting to viewers’ lives through the ages has been for religious purposes, often entailing the aspects of worship whereby a deity, person, or narrative is presented for the viewer to use in order to express their devotion, as an occasion of worship, or to contemplate its meaning. Among the most formalized types are cult statues images of deities, saints, or revered figures such as Varaha, the boar-headed avatar, or physical form, of the Hindu god Vishnu. Here, Varaha is rescuing the goddess Bhudevi by slaying the demon that had trapped her in the ocean. (Figure 6.15) Dangling in mid-air as she holds his tusk, Varaha returned Bhuvedi to her rightful place on earth.

    Other examples include the enormous altarpieces that were a central focus in churches during the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque (seventeenth century) eras in Europe, altarpieces such as El Transparente in the Cathedral of Toledo, Spain. Its elaborate carvings and gilding interplay with natural sunlight that streams in from strategically placed openings in the wall and ceiling. (Figure 6.16) Such works are designed to be awe inspiring, presenting the viewer/believer with a spectacular visual expression of mysteries of the faith.

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