Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Unraveling The Mysteries Of The East (2)

National MuseumNew Delhi, India
Photo:  Wkitravel Web site (Picture 1331)

The National Museum, New Delhi, India, is somewhat of a hidden treasure.  This writer knows many repeat visitors to India who are unaware of the asset.  The museum is well worth a visit.  Hundreds of remarkable objects are on view from a collection of over 200,000. Some holdings are of non-Indian origin but the vast majority belong to India's heritage.  They represent some 5,000 years of civilization, from 3,000 B.C. to the present.  

Ganga, 5th century A.D., (Gupta Period), 
Uttar Pradesh, terra-cotta, 
h: 67.7 l: 29.1 w: 15.8 in. (h: 172 l: 74 w: 40 cm)
National MuseumNew Delhi, India
Photo:  National Museum Web site

Sculptures in a variety of materials, paintings, textiles, arms and armor, ceramics and manuscripts are just some of the artworks on view.  

Partial view of Chola Gallery, 
National Museum, New Delhi, India
Photo:  Enjoying India Web site, Verseguru (Creative Commons)

Visitors new to the arts of India may find particular galleries more engaging.  One such gallery is a room dedicated to the softly modeled, sensual sculptures of the Gupta period, c. 320 - 550 A.D., considered the classic period of Indian art; or, one devoted to the graceful, elegant and otherworldly bronzes from the Chola dynasty of South India, c. 850 - 1250 A.D. 

  Partial view of Buddhist Gallery with Stupa containing relics of Buddha,
National Museum, New Delhi, India
Photo:  Albany Kid Web site

View of Buddhist Gallery with Stupa containing relics of Buddha,
National Museum, New Delhi, India
Photo:  Hillary Ganton

Don't be surprised to find the Buddhist art gallery filled with saffron robed Buddhist monks.   A small stupa here contains sacred relics of the Buddha.  The shrine attracts thousands of worshippers each year.

Views of Painting Galleries,
National Museum, New Delhi, India
Photo:  National Museum Web site

The museum's miniature painting collection has both depth and breath.  Examples of all the major styles and sub-styles of Indian painting are displayed in a series of well-lit galleries.  The works astound with their exquisite intricacy.  A magnifying glass and small flash light come in handy.  Magnification brings out details that are all but impossible to see with the naked eye. In some finely painted areas, artists are said to have used a brush made with a single hair. The sheen of gold, silver and metallic green (beetle wings) employed for highlights is lost without additional illumination.  Focused or refracted light from oil lamps or candles would have picked up the glint of these materials. Sadly, most of the silver leaf has oxidized to black but this is no deterrent from enjoying these beautiful works.  

If you go to India, don't miss visiting the museum.  When there, be sure to avail yourself of the informative audio guide.  It makes the experience even more pleasurable   

If India is of interest but a trip is not in the future, explore the National Museum's Web site as well as the National Museum's entry on Google Art Project.*  

A view from Victoria Peak, 
looking north over Central, Victoria Harbour and Kowloon (2011)
Photo:  Wikipedia Web site

Travelers often begin their journey to mainland China with a stop in Hong Kong.  Some just visit Hong Kong.  In this city of dazzling vistas and prodigious shopping, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is commonly missed.  Although not a national museum, it had offered an introduction to China's arts.  Thus, this mention.  

The museum is presently beginning a comprehensive renovation.   Alas, the Chinese antiquities section is now closed as well as some galleries devoted to contemporary artworks and educative presentations.   With the hope that the museum will wisely reinstall the collection, the following description is presented. 

Hong Kong Museum of Art,  Main Entrance
Photo:  Hong Kong Extras Web site

Housed in a modern building in Hong Kong's main tourist area, the Hong Kong Museum of Art is easily accessed.   The holdings, about 15,000 artworks, is neither large by some standards nor filled with national treasures.  To give readers a comparison, the Shanghai Museum has more than 1,000,000 objects with at least 120,000 of significant cultural importance.  The Palace Museum in Beijing has in excess of 1,800,000 artifacts, of these approximately 1,600,000 are deemed historically valuable and nationally protected.

Large Bowl with Floral Scrolls Design in Underglaze Red,
Hongwu period (1368 - 1398), Ming dynasty,
h.: 3.9, diameter of mouth: 8 in. (h.:10, diameter of mouth: 20.3 cm)
Photo:  Wikimedia Commons Web site**

Yet, the Hong Kong Museum of Art's size and quality was not a disadvantage.  The number of objects that were displayed had not overwhelmed.  Works were organized by material and displayed chronologically.  These included ceramics, bronzes, lacquerwares, costumes and furniture.  

Hong Kong Museum of Art, Education Corner***
Hong Kong
Photo:  Wikimedia Commons Web site

The whole museum is scheduled to close sometime in 2015.  When it reopens, a visit to the Hong Kong Museum of Art may once again be a good start to a Chinese adventure.  Until then, it is best not to go here. 

*The National Museum, New Delhi, India, is part of Google Art Project.  Institutions belonging to the project put artworks online in high resolution images and, in some cases, a 360 degree tour of the institution's galleries.  To explore the National Museum, New Delhi, India, on Google Art Project, go to the Art Project's home page, main menu.  Click on "Collections" and type "New Delhi" in search area.  When the drop-down menu appears, click on "National Museum, Delhi."
**This work is in the public domain in the United States.
***Former installation.

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