9

Indian Nagini, 9th century. Sandstone. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; museum purchase with funds provided by "One Great Night in November

HOUSTON, TX.- The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston opens a new permanent gallery in the Caroline Wiess Law Building dedicated to the museum´s growing Indian art collection. The Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India Gallery introduces audiences to the richness of traditional Indian art and bridges the past with the present by also including modern and contemporary examples.

The only space in Houston devoted to Indian arts and culture, this gallery features outstanding examples of painting, sculpture, and photography spanning more than 2,500 years of cultural history. Approximately 100 artworks are presented, transcending time and geographical boundaries. Framing the objects though the historical context of the great Empires of India, the gallery offers educational didactics and labels emphasizing the global trade contacts of ancient and medieval India that continue today.

Among the ancient works on display are the extraordinary grey schist, 2nd—3rd century Bodhisattva from ancient Gandhara (now Pakistan); the beautiful 6th-century, Gupta period sandstone sculpture depicting the Hindu goddess Sarasvati; and two spectacular bronze sculptures from the Chola dynasty: an 11th-century Parvati and 13th-century Shiva Nataraja. The rich and diverse genres of Indian painting are also represented. Works from a number of different regions depict varied scenes, from the daily life of the Mughal court to tales from the ancient, epic books of the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

A great range of modern and contemporary works explores the current art scene in India, which is informed by the political, economic, social, and physical landscape. Visitors will see a sculpture by Subodh Gupta on loan from a private collection as well as MFAH works from established and emergent contemporary artists, such as photographs by Dayanita Singh and an installation work by Shilpa Gupta.

The museum plans to increase its collection of Indian art significantly, and the Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India Gallery is pivotal to this development. By expanding the number of works exhibited together, the museum is better able to identify the need for particular acquisitions and strengthen the collection as a whole. Through this ambitious initiative, the MFAH is poised to become a preeminent center in the United States for the study and appreciation of Indian art.

a

Indian Shiva Nataraja, 13th century, Bronze. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Carol and Robert Straus, 73.77.

b

Indian, Images of the Buddha, 2nd—4th century, Gray schist. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston : MFAH purchase with funds provided by the Museum Collectors. 85.115

c

Indian, Rama, Lakshmana, and Sita Cooking and Eating in the Wilderness, c. 1820, Gouache with gold on paper. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston : MFAH purchase with funds provided by the Elizabeth S. and Marjorie G. Horning Asian Art Accessions Endowment Fund, and gift of Isla and Tommy Reckling. 2007.1856

d

Indian, Parvati, 11th Century, Bronze. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; museum purchase with funds provided by the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund. 2007.1295

e

Indian, Maitreya, 2nd Century, Grey schist with pink sandstone. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; museum purchase with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. James M. Vaughn, Jr. 90.439

f

Indian, Attributed to Fattu, eldest son of Manaku, The Siege of Mathura by Jarasandha (from the series Guler-Basholi "Bhagavata Purana"), 1769, Gouache with gold on paper. The MFAH, gift of Ann Roff, Isla and Tommy Reckling, Barbara E. Butler, and various other donors. 2008.293

g

Tibetan, Maitreya, 15th—16th century, Gilt bronze and turquoise. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

Maitreya, the future Buddha, is shown engaged in preaching, as indicated by the gesture of his hands. In his hands he holds the stems of lotus flowers, on which rest a vessel containing life-giving fluids and the Wheel of the Law. A stupa, a temple to protect the Buddha´s relics, arises behind his crown. It is a distinctive emblem of Maitreya. Images of the future Buddha are dedicated at funerals in the hope that the deceased will reach Tushita, a level of heaven where Maitreya is said to live.

Buddha means "enlightened one," and there are many Buddhas. The Buddha who founded the religion was an Indian prince who achieved enlightenment by rejecting worldly goods and accepting suffering as a part of life, freeing himself from the cycle of reincarnation.

i

Indian, Nandi, 19th—20th century, Gold. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

The bull called Nandi is the mount of Shiva, one of the most important Hindu gods. Nandi also guards Shiva and his consort, Parvati.

Nandi wears an elaborate bridle with tassels, bells, jewelry, and horn ornaments. Symbols representing the unity of the male and female principles in the universe sit in front of the bull.

j

Indian, Necklace, 19th century, Gold, ruby, and cloth cord. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

India has long been famous for its intricate and fine jewelry. Indian craftsmen elevated adornment to an art form. This necklace consists of triple strands of hollow beads with two additional rows of central beads. It is further enriched by a red ruby. Indian jewelry is famous for its use of colored gemstones.

k

Indian, Harpoon, c. 1500 B.C., Bronze.The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

l

Indian, Necklace, 19th—20th century, Gold and red stones. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

This gold necklace once adorned the statue of a deity, possibly Shiva, one of the most important Hindu gods. The shape suggests the naga, or cobra, a frequent companion of Shiva´s. The cobra was believed to protect against evil and infertility. The statues of Hindu temples often wore expensive, elaborate jewelry made of gold and precious stones. The gold-working techniques include filigree, a lace-like pattern; and granulation, in which small metal spheres are fused onto a metal base.

m

Indian, Surya, 11th Century, Black chlorite. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Milton D. Rosenau, Jr., and Dr. Ellen R. Gritz.
98.244

n

Indian, Bracelet, 19th—20th century, Embossed gold with rubies. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

Created in deep repoussé and inlaid with rubies, this bracelet is decorated with depictions of elephants and lions, symbols of royalty and strength. Repoussé is a technique in which raised designs are fashioned by hammering metal from the reverse side.

Nguyen_Quang_Thang_Flowwer_2007

Indian, Ganesh and Siddhi, 10th-11th Century. Buff sandstone. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Milton D. Rosenau, Jr., and Dr. Ellen R. Gritz. 99.310

o

Indian, Ear Ornaments, 20th century or earlier, Gold with red stones. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

These ear ornaments depict stylized elephant heads with red ruby eyes. The Hindu god of good fortune, Ganesh, always appears with the head of an elephant. He is the son of the god Shiva, creator and destroyer. Ganesh is an important and popular Hindu deity. The wearer of these jewel-encrusted earrings hoped for good luck.

p

Tibetan, Standing Figure of Mahasiddha, 18th century or earlier, Gold, bronze, and pigment. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

q

Indian, Betel Nut Box, 18th—19th century. Gold with inlaid garnets, emeralds, and rubies. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

This opulent box and lid are decorated with concentric circles of inlaid red garnets. The top of the lid depicts a pair of flowers inlaid with rubies and emeralds. This box once held betel leaves and areca nut, mild stimulants that produce a sense of well-being. Hosts offer these to honored guests in hospitality. Luxurious boxes made of gold and inlaid with precious stones were symbols of prestige, status, and wealth.

r

Indian, Necklace, 19th—20th century, Gold and emerald. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

This magnificent necklace decorated with raised spheres, made in repoussé by hammering from the back, probably adorned a statue of a Hindu temple. It is further enriched by an emerald pendant.

s

Indian, Pectoral, 19th—20th century, Gold. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr

Gold pectorals, used to adorn metal or stone statues of gods and goddesses, are given in gratitude for answered prayers. This richly ornamented pectoral was made for a statue of the goddess Parvati, the supreme Divine Mother and consort of Shiva, creator and destroyer. Her costume and jewels are rendered with careful detail.

t

Indian, Belt, 19th—20th century, Gold. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

This impressive gold belt consists of several hinged panels. The buckle is decorated with a stepped pyramid representing a Hindu temple tower structure found in northern India. It is topped by the head of a mythological creature. Flanking the buckle are square medallions elaborately decorated with plants and animals, including hunting scenes of tigers attacking elephants.

u

Indian, Hair Comb, 19th—20th century, Gold and red stones. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

This heavy, solid-gold hair comb is surmounted by a pair of rearing lions with their tails curling upward. Elaborate foliate forms issue from their mouths. An elegantly curved bar with a central bead connects their heads. The body of the comb features a pair of engraved stylized phoenix birds or dragons with intricate swirling bodies. Two red stones adorn the ends of the comb. Indian jewelry is famous for its rich ornamentation.

7

Tibetan, Vajradhara, 15th—16th century, Gilt bronze with turquoise. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

Vajradhara, whose name means Bearer of the Thunderbolt, is the Primordial Buddha, the supreme essence of all Buddhas. He is adorned with elaborate jewelry, a symbol of his enlightened state. He holds a vajra (thunderbolt) and a ghanta (bell) in his hands, which are crossed over his chest. These symbols represent the male and female principles of the universe, which must be brought into balance to obtain enlightenment.

Buddha means "enlightened one," and there are many Buddhas. The Buddha who founded the religion was an Indian prince who achieved enlightenment by rejecting worldly goods and accepting suffering as a part of life, freeing himself from the cycle of reincarnation.

9

Indian, Snuff Box, 19th century, Gold. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

a

Indian, Wedding Necklace, 19th century, Gold. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr

This marriage necklace was given to a bride by her family as part of her dowry. The central pendant, however, was a gift from the groom. It depicts the Hindu god Shiva and his consort, Parvati. They represent celestial marriage and the hope that the young bride and groom will have a happy and fruitful union. The groom places this necklace around the bride´s neck at the culmination of the wedding ceremony.

7

Indian, Hair Ornament, 19th century, Gold, gemstones, and cloth cord. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr.

This superb and elaborate gold hair ornament terminates at one end in tassels and at the other end in many-headed cobras and the figure of Krishna. In Indian mythology, Krishna, the divine hero and eighth reincarnation of the major Hindu deity Vishnu, is said to have defeated the evil multiheaded serpent Kaliya that was poisoning the waters of the Yamuna River.

This example is encrusted with precious gemstones. Since ancient times, India has been famous for jewels and gemstone cutting.

7

Indian, Hair Ornament, 19th century, Gold, gemstones, and cloth cord. The MFAH, gift of Alfred C. Glassell, Jr

This superb and elaborate gold hair ornament terminates at one end in tassels and at the other end in many-headed cobras and the figure of Krishna. In Indian mythology, Krishna, the divine hero and eighth reincarnation of the major Hindu deity Vishnu, is said to have defeated the evil multiheaded serpent Kaliya that was poisoning the waters of the Yamuna River.

This example is encrusted with precious gemstones. Since ancient times, India has been famous for jewels and gemstone cutting

7

Tibetan, Mahakala Heruka, 17th century, Gilt bronze. The MFAH, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Samuel C. Woolvin

Mahakala is the god of death. Depicted as a fierce warrior, he protects the teachings of the Buddha and defeats negative forces. The Buddha was an Indian prince who achieved enlightenment by rejecting worldly goods and accepting suffering as a part of life and thus freed himself from the cycle of reincarnation.

Mahakala stands in a militant posture called pratyalidha, wears a necklace of skulls, and holds a wreath made of skulls. An elephant hide covers his back, symbolizing his power to overcome obstacles and opponents

9

Indian, Furniture Panel Decoration, 15th—16th century, Ivory. MFAH Purchase

Ivory is a hard, smooth, whitish material that forms the tusks or teeth of animals such as the elephant, hippopotamus, and walrus. In India and nearby regions, elephant tusk was the most likely source of ivory. Delicate and suitable for the precise carving of complicated details, ivory is a fragile material, easily damaged by climate changes, humidity, and the elements. Old ivories are, therefore, rare works of art.

This ivory panel once decorated an elaborate bed or chair. It depicts a male and voluptuous female under an arch. The female sits on the knee of the male and offers him fruit. The subject was probably inspired by the famous Kama Sutra, verses on the art of making love.

a

Indian, Comb, 18th century, Ivory. The MFAH, gift of Drs. Usha and Kumara Peddamatham

This ivory comb is masterfully carved with intricate detail. It depicts the union of the divine herdsman, Krishna, and his principal consort, Radha, who tend the sacred cows. Krishna plays the flute, his identifying attribute. Various females who attend the couple hold a parasol, fly whisk, fan, and scepter. Beneath the couple sit four sacred cows. The bottom section of the comb features female musicians. (The back of the comb is decorated with a central figure of the popular Hindu deity Ganesh, god of good fortune.)