DMA Insight

The Arts of India 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.

The foundation of the South Asian collection at the Dallas Museum of Art is devoted to Indian art. This core of artworks, now considerably expanded, currently comprises the first gallery in the Owsley galleries. This is appropriate, since India was the source for major religious and artistic traditions found across Asia.

Artworks include a warm and appealing 12th-century relief of Shiva and Parvati with their children, Ganesha and Skanda [PG.2007.48]. A fine sculpture of Agni, the Vedic god of fire [PG.2007.47], a sensuous heavenly female in the Khajuraho style [PG.2007.15], a handsome male torso from Mathura [PG.2007.34], and a deft relief of the river goddess Jamuna and her attendants [PG.2007.44] suggest the range of subject matter in ancient South Asian sculpture, while the Gupta-period architectural fragment with a human face [PG.2007.38] exemplifies an early architectural style in India. All are intended gifts of David T. Owsley.

Major additions to this area of the collections also include the 10th-century Vishnu as Varaha sculpture, with its dramatic and energetic embodiment of the boar- headed deity saving an earth goddess [2002.25], a gift David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, the E. E. Fogelson and Greer Garson Fogelson Fund, the General Acquisitions Fund, the Wendover Fund, and Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen; the Kushan pillar sculpture with a bejeweled and sensuous woman, perhaps a yakshi, or nature spirit [2003.21], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation; the 16th-century sculpture of Shiva as Virabhadra, a fierce, warlike incarnation of the god [2007.16], a gift of Alvin and David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation in memory of Colonel Alvin M. Owsley, with the assistance of the Wendover Fund; and the 9th-century doorjamb with Shaivite figures and a river goddess [2008.8], a gift of the Wendover Fund, David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, and the General Acquisitions Fund.

The Museum’s Junior Associates group has also enhanced the South Asian collections, with the purchases of the 11th-century Durga relief from Rajasthan [2003.7.2], the 11th-century sculpture of an attendant of Vishnu [2000.299], and the very fine 12th-century seated Jina, an austerely powerful representation of a Jain tirthankara in meditation [2003.7.1].

The Mughal Period

The arts of the Mughal period (1526–1857), a time marked by a cre­ative mix and synthesis of Hindu and Muslim styles, are of special interest. This area of the collection has grown considerably, thanks to Mr. Owsley’s acquisitions, as well as through gifts from Mrs. Alta Brenner and from the estate of Sarah Dorsey Hudson. Fine Mughal metalwork and jewelry are particularly impressive, including inlaid and jeweled weapons, such as the jade-handled dagger and its sheath [PG.2007.7.A-B] an intended gift of David T. Owsley, and orna­mented qatars [PG.2007.6, 2009.15.1], the first an intended gift of David T. Owsley and the second a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alconda-Owsley Foundation. Stunning examples of gold ornaments, both Muslim and Hindu, include the delightful Hindu wedding ornament (thali ) [1999.168], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alconda-Owsley Foundation in memory of Mrs. Juanita K. Bromberg; the hair braid ornament worn by Indian dancers [1996.211], a jeweled gold arm band [1996.218], both gifts of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation; and the spectacular gold necklace with a pendant in the form of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha [1997.7], a gift of the Asian Art Fund and Alta Brenner in memory of her daughter Andrea Bernice Brenner-McMullen.

Other decorative arts in the collection include a silver scep­ter with a makara head [1995.79], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alconda-Owsley Foundation, and game-related objects, such as the painted backgammon board with pop-up figures [PG.2007.70], and the chess piece of a mahout and two riders on an elephant [PG.2007.30], both intended gifts of David T. Owsley.

More large-scale objects include a pair of carved sandstone jali screens, used as ornamental furnishings and for the circulation of air [2009.8.1-2], purchased by the Junior Associates, and architectural brackets illustrated with fantastical animals called vyalas and men riding horses [1995.80.1-2], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley and Alconda-Owsley Foundations. The most impor­tant architectural work is the large silver-over-wood shrine, dating to the early 19th century [1995.77.A-GG], a gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation. With its domed struc­ture and depiction of Hindu dancing girls, along with courtiers on elephants, it aptly represents the mingling of Muslim and Hindu cultures during the Mughal period.

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: 15-16.

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