DMA Insight

The Arts of the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art

_The following is an excerpt from the 2013 publication _The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Another significant collecting area lies in the Buddhist arts of the Gandharan region and the Himalayas. Gandharan art is significant not only for its majestic representations of Buddhist holy figures but also for its expression of the interchange between styles of the Mediterranean world and the northwestern areas of South Asia, occurring thanks to trade and political contact between the regions. The noble, imposing Head of Buddha, a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, is an outstand­ing example [1993.7], and there are also sculptures of bodhisattvas and reliefs with scenes from the life of the Buddha, along with works from the related Kushan kingdom in northern India. In the Himalayan area, Mr. Owsley has contributed gilt bronze sculp­tures including the powerful figures of Vajrabhairava [1998.87], Palden Lhamo [1997.157], and Simhavaktra, the lion-headed figure [1999.4], which join Tibetan bronzes that go back to the earlier days of the Museum. These include Manjushri [1955.19], a gift of Mrs. E. R. Brown; Padmapani [1980.45.FA], a gift of the Virginia C. and Floyd C. Ramsey Fund of the Dallas Community Chest Trust Fund, Inc., for the Foundation for the Arts Collection; and the dakini Vajravarahi [1982.9.FA], a gift of the Virginia C. and Floyd C. Ramsey Fund of Communities Foundation of Texas, Inc. for the Foundation for the Arts Collection. The figure of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, is one of the first Asian works to come to the Museum. Glittering with gilding and often forcefully expressive in their treatment of the fearsome yet protective fig­ures of Tibetan Buddhism, the sculptures originally served in the monastic context as aids to meditation and devotional practice.

Several Tibetan ritual objects in the collection include a purba, or ritual dagger, an intended gift of David T. Owsley, two Buddhist diadems, one painted with skulls and the other with Buddhist holy figures [2000.405; 2000.407] gifts of David T. Owsley via the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, and stupas, memorials to prominent lamas and monks [2001.263; PG.2009.71], the former a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the latter an intended gift from David T. Owsley. Various gilt bronze objects used in meditation are often small in scale, while larger works include thangka paintings used in outdoor Buddhist ceremonies. The Mahottara Heruka thangka [2002.13] is a gift of the Junior Associates, while the Palden Lhamo thangka was acquired with the Wendover Fund [2005.48].

The great Bhairava mask from Nepal [2000.322], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, depicts a vision of Shiva in his terrifying form. As is true of many Himalayan works, a terrifying and violent nature represents an aspect of a protective divinity.

Excerpt from

Anne Bromberg, "The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art: A History" in The Arts of India, Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas at the Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013: 16-17.

Web Resources