NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Museum of Art will feature an exhibition of Pahari paintings, ‘Seeing the Divine: Pahari Painting of North India’, in their South Asian gallery, from December 22, through July 21, 2019.
The exhibition will focus on early painting styles that emerged in the Pahari courts of North India during the 17th and 18th centuries. Featuring some 20 of the most refined paintings produced in South Asia during the period, ‘Seeing the Divine: Pahari Painting of North India’ will examine the innovative ways in which Pahari artists depicted the Hindu gods, according to the Met.
By juxtaposing devotional images with emotionally charged narrative moments, the paintings gave royal patrons a novel approach to forging a personal connection with the divine through devotion.
Highlights of the exhibition include a rare, early 19th–century temple banner measuring 26 feet that is being shown publicly for the first time. The majority of the works on view are recent promised gifts of collector Steven Kossak. The exhibition itself is made possible by The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation.
Working mostly in miniatures and large-format folios, Pahari artists employed remarkably innovative vocabularies. They often depicted god as a child, a lover, a terrible protector, or even a personal vision.
Famous narratives such as the Ramayana and the Gita Govinda had tremendous appeal at the Pahari courts, and the exhibition will include folios that reference both. ‘The Monkey Leader Angada Steals Ravana’s Crown from His Fortress’ (ca. 1725), a folio from the Ramayana, is attributed to the master painter Manaku (active ca. 1725–60).
‘Radha and Krishna Walking at Night’ (ca. 1775–80), a folio from the Gita Govinda, depicts Krishna’s emotionally charged interactions with Radha. Here, the artist contrasts her solitude and longing with erotically charged encounters to emphasize the idea of unity between god and devotee, said the Met.
The impressive temple banner recounts the complex story of Krishna’s rescue and marriage to his first wife, Rukmini, as well as dramatic scenes of Krishna and his many followers fighting a heroic battle in the Himalayan foothills–a battle that represents the great conflict between gods and demons to restore cosmic order.
RUBIN MUSEUM EXHIBITION
Religion has influenced and empowered countless political leaders throughout history, and Tibetan Buddhism is no exception. ‘Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism’ is the first exhibition of its kind to explore Tibetan Buddhism’s dynamic political role in the empires of Asia from the 7th to the early 20th century, on view at the Rubin Museum, from February 1, 2019, through July 15, 2019.
The exhibition places Himalayan art in a larger global context and sheds light on a little-known aspect of Tibetan Buddhism related to power, one that may run counter to popular perceptions yet is critical to understanding its importance on the world stage, according to the Rubin Museum.
‘Faith and Empire’ explores the dynamic historical intersection of politics, religion, and art in Tibetan Buddhism. Through more than 60 objects from the 8th to the 19th century, the exhibition illuminates how Tibetan Buddhism presented a model of universal sacral kingship, whereby consecrated rulers were empowered to expand their realm, aided by the employment of ritual magic. Images were a primary means of political propagation, integral to magical tantric rites and embodiments of its power.
By the 12th century, Tibetan Buddhist masters became renowned across Northern Asia as bestowers of this anointed rule and occult power. Tibetans also used the mechanism of reincarnation as a means of succession, a unique form of political legitimacy that they brought to empires to the east.
Tibetan Buddhism offered a divine means to power and legitimacy to rule, with images serving as a means of political propagation and embodiments of power. Artworks on view in the exhibition, many for the first time in the United States, illustrate empires that not only embraced Tibetan Buddhism but were empowered by its masters, ritual magic, and religious artwork.
“In the West, Buddhism has often been romanticized as an unchanging passive tradition, but historically this was not the case. In Tibet, religion and politics were so intertwined as to be inseparable. For over a millennium Tibetan Buddhism was an active force in politics, both as a means to claim the right to rule and the magical means to take it,” said Karl Debreczeny, Senior Curator at the Rubin Museum, in a statement. “‘Faith and Empire’ brings together more than 60 remarkable works of art —many from the highest levels of imperial court production— that illuminate the ways in which art and religion had a tremendous impact on politics in the courts of North Asia.”
Artwork highlights include a set of 8th-century gilt-silver drinking vessels from the Tibetan Empire; an early 13th-century wrathful icon made of silk and ornamented with tiny seed pearls; a 4 ½-foot-tall 680-pound gilt-bronze bodhisattva from the early 15th-century Ming court; and a 19th-century 8-feet-wide Mongolian depiction of the final battle against the heretics and nonbelievers.
The exhibition is arranged chronologically, beginning with the Tibetan Empire in the 7th century, and includes sections on the Tangut kingdom of Xixia, the Mongol Empire, the Chinese Ming dynasty, the rule of the Dalai Lamas, and the Manchu Qing dynasty.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication, an audio guide, a conference (the weekend of April 6th), and other public programming. ‘Faith and Empire’ is curated by Karl Debreczeny.
‘Faith and Empire’ is the first exhibition in the Rubin’s yearlong thematic exploration of power, focusing on how visitors can activate the power that exists within and between us. The Rubin Museum’s 2019 exhibitions and programs highlight multiple perspectives and seek to empower visitors to think about their role as individuals and as a collective in creating, maintaining, and challenging existing systems of power.
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)