Posts Tagged 'Southeast Asia'

The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas

On February 28, the DMA will celebrate the publication of the first catalogue dedicated to exploring the Museum’s collection of South and Southeast Asian art. The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art was written by Dr. Anne R. Bromberg, the DMA’s Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art.

DMA_SAsian_Jacket

The catalogue examines over 140 sculptures, architectural pieces, and other works of art that represent the many cultures and religions of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas. Both visually and intellectually compelling, the catalogue celebrates the beauty and diversity of art from the region, as well as its social and historic significance.

The DMA’s South Asian collection has been growing since the first statue from the region was acquired in 1955. Since then, several exhibitions have led to the expansion of the collection, including the groundbreaking exhibition The Arts of Man in 1962 and the 1993 exhibition East Meets West: Selections from the David T. Owsley Collection. Following that exhibition, Mr. Owsley agreed to donate the exhibited works to the Museum, providing the core of the new Asian galleries that opened in 1996. He is also leaving his personal collection to the Museum in his estate.

We invite you to visit the Asian galleries to see (for free!) works from the catalogue that are currently on view, including the following and many others.

Shiva Nataraja, Chola dynasty, 11th century, bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

Shiva Nataraja, South India, Tamil Nadu, Chola dynasty, 11th century, bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, the Hamon Charitable Foundation, and an anonymous donor in honor of David T. Owsley, with additional funding from The Cecil and Ida Green Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund

This bronze sculpture of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, shows him in his form as the Lord of the Dance. His dancing obliterates ignorance, signified by the dwarf beneath him. On special occasions, metal images such as this one were taken on procession both within the temple and in the surrounding area.

Vishnu as Varaha, 10th century, sandstone, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, E.E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, Wendover Fund, and gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen

Vishnu as Varaha, Central India, Madhya Pradesh, 10th century, sandstone, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, E. E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, Wendover Fund, and gift of Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen

This sculpture portrays Vishnu, the Hindu preservation deity, as his incarnation of Varaha, with the head of a boar and the body of a human. He is shown triumphantly rising up from the ocean with the earth goddess, whom he has just rescued from the sea-demon that tried to drown her. Large figures of Varaha such as this one were often used to commemorate a king’s victory in battle, drawing an analogy between the righteousness of Varaha and the monarch.

Shrine, late 18th-19th century, silver over wood, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation

Shrine, India, Gujarat, late 18th-19th century, silver over wood, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation

This magnificent shrine is covered with a silver veneer and represents a miniature version of the universe; imagery evolves from the earthly realm of human activity to the heavenly realm with celestial dancers and birds near the dome. The eclectic imagery makes it difficult to identify as either Jain or Hindu without the holy figure that would have been seated in the middle. Shrines such as this one were used in private homes as well as in devotional chapels in larger temple complexes.

Buddha Sakyamuni, Khmer, c. 13th century, gilded bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund

Standing Buddha, Thailand, Lopburi style, 13th-14th century, gilt bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund

This gilt bronze statue of the Buddha stands with his hands out in a gesture meant to drive back floodwaters. The Buddha’s spiritual wealth is reflected in the lavish material of his clothing and intricate decoration of his crown and jewelry. The artistic style is named after the central Thai city of Lopburi, which was both the political and artistic center of the region.

Bust of a bodhisattva, Kushan, 2nd-3rd century, gray schist, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Margaret J. and George V. Charlton

Bust of a bodhisattva, India, Gandhara, Kushan period, 2nd-early 4th century, gray schist, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Margaret J. and George V. Charlton

This terracotta sculpture represents the last of the bodhisattvas that preceded the historical Buddha. This bodhisattva will be reborn as Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Here, he is meditating on that reincarnation.

Please join us on Thursday, February 28, for a discussion led by Dr. Bromberg with fellow contributing authors to the book: Frederick M. Asher, Chair of the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota; Robert Warren Clark, Coordinator of the Tibetan Language Program at Stanford University; and Nancy Tingley, an independent curator of Southeast Asian art. During this insightful program, they will discuss the history of the South and Southeast Asian collection at the DMA, as well as the process of creating the catalogue and what they found most interesting from the experience.

Andrea Lesovsky is the McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern in Ancient and Asian Art at the DMA.

Teaching with Art from the Himalayas and Southeast Asia

Fellow Teaching Programs Intern Ashley Bruckbauer and I, recently led a docent training session that highlighted six objects from the Himalayas and Southeast Asia.  We wanted to familiarize docents with objects from these areas, discuss teaching strategies for works with religious significance, as well as consider overarching themes within the Asian collection that would encourage students to make connections within their own lives.          

Ashley started the training session talking about the Silk Road Trade Route and how it introduced Buddhism into different regions of Asia. Buddhism originated in India and is based on the teachings of Prince Siddhartha, who became known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. He taught that all life is suffering, but renouncing desires and the self can lead to a state of enlightenment beyond both suffering and existence. Buddhism is no longer as widely practiced in India but has spread to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, and the Far East through missionary activity. Today, it is one of the world’s largest religions.         

We then had docents look at and discuss the six works of art. These objects inspired the two themes for our docent training: Opulent Buddhas and Ferocious Protectors.

 1. Opulent Buddhas
The objects presented under this theme were the Buddha Sakyamuni, Manjusri, and the Buddha Muchalinda. These objects represented three examples of Buddha figures heavily adorned with lavish materials.  What can we learn from these objects, sculpted in opulent materials? Buddhists consider gold the supreme color, which is why many of their images are gilded. Bronze figures are sometimes coated with another metal before gilding. Gem-encrusted, gilded statues would have been created to inspire meditation among the monks in a Buddhist monastery. It also symbolizes the spiritual wealth of the Buddha.

  • The Buddha Sakyamuni is shown standing in his princely clothing. He is wearing a robe or Sanghati, with a jeweled belt, collar and crown. He also has a jeweled inlay urna or third eye, on his forehead as well.  His hand gesture, or mudra, symbolizes protection, meaning “fear not.”
  • Manjusri is the bodhisattva of divine wisdom. He is considered to be the founder of Buddhist culture. He is always shown as a youthful crowned prince. He carries traditional emblems: the Buddhist scriptures on a lotus flower and the sword that cuts ignorance.  His left hand is raised in a gesture of teaching. His sweet and placid character embodies peaceful consolation.
  • The Buddha Muchalinda represents a moment in the Buddha’s enlightenment. The Buddha was sitting under a tree in deep meditation, when rising waters were sent by a demon to drown him. The Naga or serpent king, came from beneath the earth, raised the Buddha above the rising waters on his snake coils and protected him with his seven cobra heads.

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 2. Ferocious Protectors
The second group of objects discussed were the Guardian Snow Lions, Rearing Lion, and the Dharmapala Lhamo.  Ferocious animals and wrathful deities have symbolic significance and are an important decorative element in Buddhist art. Why might it have been necessary for these objects to appear frightening? Fierce sculptures such as these are made to adorn  the Buddha’s throne and protect the Buddhist law and scriptures.

  • These Guardian Snow Lions are shown heavily ornamented with a jeweled crown and decorative chains as well as elaboration of bodily features, such as the curls in the mane, tail and leg fur. Flames of wisdom, which represent light or transformation, flare up from the shoulders and the head. Their ferocity is shown by their large sharp fangs, powerful claws and brawny build. The lions would have guarded entrances of temples and demarcated sacred grounds. They also protect against evil spirits and are depicted in Buddhist art supporting the Buddha’s throne.
  • A figure like the Rearing Lion would have supported the exterior base of temples, lintels, thrones, pedestals or platforms. The details of the face, such as the squared mouth and the treatment of the eyebrows with a relief-design between eyes, are associated with the royal temple of Koh Ker. Koh Ker was the capital of the Khmer Empire during the 10th century. The Khmer Empire is now present-day Cambodia.
  • The Dharmapala Lhamo is one of eight Dharmapalas or Great Protectors of the Buddhist law and scriptures. She is typically illustrated as a bloodthirsty and terrifying character riding a mule or donkey and adorned with a crown of skulls, garland of decapitated heads, and a human skin worn as a cape. She also has flaming hair, bulging eyes and a corpse in her mouth. The goddess rides through a sea of blood accompanied by two hybrid female deities.  She would be used by monks for meditation, helping to transform anger and energy into creative energy needed to achieve enlightenment.

Karen A. Colbert
Teaching Programs Intern

Buddha Sakyamuni, Khmer Empire (Thailand), 13th century, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Wendover Fund
Manjusri, Nepal or Tibet, 18th century, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Mrs. E.R. Brown
Buddha Muchalinda, Khmer Empire (Cambodia), Dallas Museum of Art, Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund
Guardian Snow Lions, Nepal, Kathmandu Valley, 1875, Gift of David T. Owsley via Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation
Rearing Lion, Cambodia: Koh Ker period, 10th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, The Museum League Fund
Dharmapala Lhamo, Tibet, 18th century AD, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley through Alconda-Owsley Foundation


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