Faces Of Devotion: Indian Sculpture From The Figiel Collection
April Swieconek and Whitney Riepe
A singular selection of Indian ritual bronze and metal sculptures will be on view at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) from April 10, 2010 through January 16, 2012. Faces of Devotion: Indian Sculpture from the Figiel Collection presents nearly 40 dramatic sculptures of Hindu gods, goddesses, animal spirits and deified heroes as depicted in the folk traditions of western and southern India. These works, dating from the 1500s to the 1800s, are exquisite examples of vernacular folk art and offer unique insight into the region’s compelling iconography, craftsmanship, and ritual.
Widely regarded as the finest collection of its kind, the Dr. Leo S. Figiel Collection of Indian sculpture was donated to the Peabody Essex Museum in 2006, augmenting the museum’s extensive collection of contemporary and traditional Indian art. Faces of Devotion was organized by guest curator Cathleen Cummings, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a scholar with firsthand knowledge of deity worship in India. With an emphasis on masks and heads—compelling with their large, wide-open eyes—the exhibition draws attention to the visual exchange between God and devotee, the act of seeing and being seen that is a fundamental component of Hindu devotion.
Pan-Indian gods such as Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi are worshipped and celebrated alongside a host of deities with local and regional significance. Bronze masks and sculptures play a central role in devotional practice. They aid in focusing the devotee’s attention by giving physical form to unseen gods and invisible forces. In household shrines and public temples, these sculptures and the deities they represent are often treated in the manner of honored guests. In the morning, they are gently “awakened,” bathed with perfumed water, dressed in fine cloth, and adorned with jewelry and fresh garlands .To delight their senses, incense is burned, a bell is rung, a lamp is waved before their eyes, and food is symbolically offered all before the household begins the day’s activities.
“These exceptional works reveal the centrality of deity worship in rural India, where devotees place great faith in their powers to protect, grant success, and reverse misfortune,” said guest curator Cathleen Cummings. “To convey something of the original context of these sculptures, PEM has ritually installed several in the exhibition to suggest the devotional context in which they were originally used.”
Devotional bronzes, whether cast as masks, plaques or three-dimensional sculpture, exude personality and serve the dual purpose of being the focal point of a shrine and a mobile spiritual effigy in ceremonies. Faces of Devotion introduces visitors to an array of revered Indian deities, from Hanuman the monkey god and Panjurli the wild boar to the warrior-goddess Durga and the all-powerful Shiva.
“Faces of Devotion allows visitors to connect with another culture through objects that are at once aesthetically absorbing and ritually significant,” said Susan Bean, Curator of South Asian and Korean Art at PEM. “We hope that our visitors walk away with an expanded world view and an enhanced understanding of India’s rich cultural and artistic heritage.”
INTERACT WITH THE GODS
Online and in PEM’s Faces of Devotion gallery, visitors will be able to dig further and learn more through our interactive multimedia. Explore the contemporary relevance and pervasive presence of Hindu gods in diverse aspects of Indian culture, including films, photography, comic books, fine art and more.
Saturday, April 10th – Sunday, April 11th | 10:30 am - 7:30 pm
Sensational India! Festival | All activities are FREE with museum admission
The Peabody Essex Museum celebrates an unparalleled 200-year legacy of cultural exchange with India, the longest of its kind in America. Join us for Sensational India! as we honor that relationship and make connections between the rich Indian art and culture represented in our collection and India’s remarkable performing arts. Weekend festival to include film, dance, art making, cooking, yoga, and more!
ABOUT THE PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM
The Peabody Essex Museum presents art and culture from New England and around the world. The museum's collections are among the finest of their kind, showcasing an unrivaled spectrum of American art and architecture (including four National Historic Landmark buildings) and outstanding Asian, Asian Export, Native American, African, Oceanic, Maritime and Photography collections. In addition to its vast collections, the museum offers a vibrant schedule of changing exhibitions and a hands-on education center. The museum campus features numerous parks, period gardens and 22 historic properties, including Yin Yu Tang, a 200-year-old house that is the only example of Chinese domestic architecture on display in the United States.
HOURS: Open Tuesday-Sunday and holiday Mondays, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
ADMISSION: Adults $15; seniors $13; students $11. Additional admission to Yin Yu Tang: $5. Members, youth 16 and under and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission and free admission to Yin Yu Tang.
INFO: Call 866-745-1876 or visit our Web site at www.pem.org.
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