Monday, January 12, 2009


Guanyin (bodhisattva)
Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644
painted wood

China, Sinxi Province

Toledo Museum of Art
image courtesy of ALH (click on the title for the museum's professional photo :)

This week, I am going to focus on art in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art. I spent Sunday afternoon wandering through most of the galleries, visiting favorite works and venturing into galleries I haven't given much time to in the past. I discovered some wonderful new works.

Today, we venture to China. It's rare that I come up with pre-20th c. non-western art, and that is very much a significant gap in my knowledge and education (mostly my fault). I have a tendency to skip over these galleries but happily spent some time in them today.
Guanyin is the bodhisattva (enlightened being who refrains from entering nirvana to help other achieve enlightenment) most associated with compassion and is usually represented as a female. In this sculpture, Guanyin is represented as the form of an androgynous prince. "One of the most popular Chinese deities, Guanyin comforts the souls of the dead and acts as mediator for the wishes of the living. Carved from interlocking blocks of wood and once brightly painted, this sculpture originally sat on an artificial rocky ledge as part of a visually rich temple setting in north China."(TMA caption) Seeing these wood sculptures in person is wonderful, as you can often see remnants of paint that have survived the years. I enjoy envisioning the sculpture in its original polychromed (multi-colored) form.

A new resource I came across while researching this entry, the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam has a pretty good art encyclopedia on its museum website, it is in English and has audio for the entries. The entries surely stem from their collections but they are decently broad so it has a lot to offer.

1 comment:

Chandra + Kris said...

this is my favorite period of art - and always my first stop in new musuems. :)