Bronzes provide a body through which gods make themselves available and accessible to humans. Inspired by the verses of south Indian poet-saints, sculptors sought to endow each bronze deity with breathtaking presence.
The poet Sambandar expressed the impact of encountering Shiva embodied as Lute Player, one of the god’s many forms:
The coral red Lord came to me chanting sweet Tamil poems. He stayed, playing the lute, singing songs to the beat of the mulavam and montai drums. Now he is gone. Taking my beauty with him, Leaving me pale as the kumil flower.
This mighthy protector of the Buddha once stood guard at the entrance to Ebaradera, a temple in Osaka, Japan.
The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, National Museum of Asian Art
A very early image of the Buddha, this serenely beautiful head was once framed by a halo and joined to a complete figure. The Buddha’s downward gaze conveys that he is meditating. His cranial bump (ushnisha), which signifies transcendent wisdom, and his forehead dot (urna) are marks of his perfected nature. The sculpture was created for a monastic complex in ancient Gandhara, a region that now spans Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the third century, Gandhara was a crossroads that united the Greco-Roman world with India, and the Buddha’s wavy hair recalls classical images of Apollo.
A reason big enough to visit the Sackler and a wonderful coincidence these masterpieces were on show during our visit (show ran until July 2017).
”In 2014, the Okada Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan, made an announcement that startled the art world. The new arts center revealed it had discovered a long-lost painting by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806), a legendary but mysterious Japanese artist.Titled Snow at Fukagawa, the immense work is one of three paintings by Utamaro that idealize famous pleasure districts in Edo (now Tokyo). This trio reached the Paris art market in the late 1880s and was quickly dispersed. Museum founder Charles Lang Freer acquired Moon at Shinagawa in 1903. Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara passed through several hands in France until the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, purchased it in the late 1950s. And Snow at Fukagawa had been missing for nearly seventy years before it resurfaced in Hakone.
For the first time in nearly 140 years, these paintings reunite in Inventing Utamaro at the Freer|Sackler, the only location to show all three original pieces. Contextualizing them within collecting and connoisseurship at the turn of the twentieth century, the exhibition explores the many questions surrounding the paintings and Utamaro himself.”
Photography was not permitted in this part of the gallery.
Images and text from the the Freer | Sackler website.
Together with the Freer Gallery of Art, they form the Smithsonian Museums of Asian Art with permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of Asian or Asian-influenced art, bridging the differences of cultures in a unique way.As unique as ”The Peacock Room”, a magnificent example of cross-cultural art:
”Before the Peacock Room became a work of art by James McNeill Whistler, it was the dining room in the London mansion of Frederick Leyland. Its shelves were designed to showcase the British shipping magnate’s collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain. Whistler completely redecorated the room in 1876 and 1877 as a “harmony in blue and gold.” Leyland was far from pleased with the transformation and the artist’s fee. He quarrelled with Whistler, but he kept the room intact.
Charles Lang Freer purchased the room in 1904. He had it taken apart, shipped across the Atlantic, and reassembled in his home in Detroit, Michigan. There, he gradually filled its shelves with ceramics collected from Syria, Iran, Japan, China, and Korea. For Freer, the Peacock Room embodied his belief that “all works of art go together, whatever their period.”
Whistler’s extravagant interior has been on permanent display since the Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923. Located between galleries of Chinese and American art, the Peacock Room remains a place where Asia meets America.”
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