Beginning in mid-June, new acquisitions in Indian art will be highlighted in the Indian gallery on NOMA’s third floor. Touching upon the various strengths of our collections, these new acquisitions and selected loans highlight facets of artistic production from the Indian classical tradition as well as village, or folk, production.
The bronze sculpture Seated Mahavira, dating from the thirteenth century (right) depicts the historical founder of Jainism. Less well known than Hinduism or Buddhism, Jainism is one of the oldest continually practiced faiths on the Indian subcontinent. The historical founder of the faith, Mahavira is represented here, identified by the lion at the base of his throne. A slightly older contemporary of the Buddha, Mahavira is the last of the twenty-four Jinas (or “Conquerers”) of this present cycle of time. Enlightened beings who have achieved perfection, Jinas serve as spiritual guides for others and form a focal point of worship at temples, or as is likely in this case, domestic shrines.
NOMA’s display of the vernacular arts of India has been augmented by new additions and loans. An array of lively embellished textiles, known as kanthas, reveal a remarkable diversity of motifs embroidered by women in what is now West Bengal and the country of Bangladesh. Made from humble, everyday materials, these textiles commemorate life events, such as weddings and births. Displayed nearby are two additions to the collection, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century copper alloy masks from Maharashtra. Representing manifestations of the Hindu God Shiva, as well as local deities, masks of this type were central to devotional practice.
A new selection of Jain paintings, manuscripts and rare nineteenth-century photographs are also on view, including a remarkable paper negative taken by John Murray (1809–1898), who created many of the earliest and most striking images of rural and urban nineteenthcentury India while serving in the Bengal Medical Service, beginning in 1833.
Lisa Rotondo-McCord, Curator of Asian Art