The collection of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum—more than 35,000 objects, ranging in date from the third millennium B.C. to the twenty-first century—is one of the largest and is the most comprehensive in the West. Each of the many civilizations of Asia is represented by outstanding works, providing an unrivaled experience of the artistic traditions of nearly half the world.
Posted: Tuesday, April 14, 2015
In 1915, the president of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert de Forest, turned his attention to Asia and acquired a large group of Nepalese and Tibetan gem-studded objects. Among them was this dazzling ornament for the forehead of a sculpture. It presents the four directional Buddhas in diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, as well as auspicious materials such as red coral and turquoise. At the center, the cosmic axis of the universe, is a vajra featuring a large diamond surrounded by lapis lazuli—a clear reference to Vajrayana Buddhism as the diamond path.
Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015
Tsakali cards were used by a practitioner, usually a monk or nun, under the guidance of a teacher to evoke a Buddhist deity. As these teachers traveled from one monastery to the next, using sets of portable tsakali cards was an efficient way of presenting the vast pantheon of Buddhist gods.
Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015
In preparing a history of the Museum's Department of Asian Art, which this year celebrates its centennial by showcasing its unparalleled collection through a range of exhibitions, gallery talks, and other offerings, I have uncovered a number of little-known facts and many "secrets" that are not widely known to the public. Here are nine of the most fascinating.
Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015
Looking closely at historical artifacts is one of the chief privileges and joys of being an art conservator, and I am thrilled to share with you a close look at one of the extraordinary objects currently on view in the exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas. While this ritual blade is immediately striking in its sinuous form and elaborate decoration, closer examination reveals an inspiring display of technical skill and master artistry.
Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015
I've always been drawn to the role that art and artifacts play in shaping our collective history and culture. As a college intern in the Department of Objects Conservation here at the Met, I recently had the unique opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with beautiful jewelry from Nepal while assisting with the preparation for the exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas.
Posted: Friday, January 23, 2015
This beautiful image of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara holds a lotus as his principal attribute (fig. 1). On view in the exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, the gilded figure and its lotus-inspired pedestal are made of a single block of sandalwood, a wood species that holds spiritual meaning throughout Asia. The exceptional carving found here is a rare surviving example of a Nepalese tradition with a long history, one which ultimately can be traced back to India.
Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015
A gift to the Museum in 1949, this image of Vajrabhairava was not placed on display for many years (fig. 1). In conjunction with the work's display in the Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas exhibition, however, the Departments of Objects Conservation and Scientific Research examined this figure in order to shed light on the materials and the production technique of this unusual representation.
Posted: Friday, January 9, 2015
In the course of conserving a group of twenty-five Tibetan initiation cards currently on view in Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, the second phase of treatment—performed after media consolidation—concerned compensating losses. All of the cards were damaged along their top edges from a combination of mold deterioration of the multilayered support and the handling received during their past lives as functional objects. While some of the cards were only missing parts of the top red margins, others had losses that extended well into the image area.
Posted: Monday, January 5, 2015
In 2000, The Metropolitan Museum of Art acquired a complete set of twenty-five early fifteenth-century Tibetan initiation cards (tsakalis), which are currently on display in the Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas exhibition, on view through June 14, 2015. When these cards were received, the majority of them showed noteworthy damage which was most easily visible along the top edges of the cards. Under microscopic examination, however, it became apparent that the delicate paint layer—composed primarily of natural pigments in a natural gum binder—was also markedly damaged and, in some areas, detaching from the paper support. In the magnified image shown below, the fibrous paper support can be seen under the cracked and lifting paint layer.
Posted: Friday, December 19, 2014
The exhibition Sacred Traditions of the Himalayas, opening tomorrow, explores Buddhist devotional practices across the vast Himalayan region from the thirteenth through the early twentieth century. These practices included ceremonial dance and musical performance, both important dimensions of Buddhist ritual that unified this vast region, which includes Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, and Mongolia.