Temple, Palace, Mosque
The opening of Temple, Palace, Mosque: Southern Asian and Persian Art coincided with the 20th anniversary of the Museum’s acquisition of the world-class Edwin Binney 3rd Collection of Indian painting. In this display the works are organized according to the types of architectural spaces with which they are associated. The first space presents arts associated with Southern Asian temples, be they Buddhist, Hindu, or Jain, from Afghanistan to Southeast Asia. Works of art appreciated by elite patrons and connoisseurs in royal court settings throughout India are featured in the second section devoted to arts of the palace, while Islamic art from Iran, India, and Central Asia are on view in the central space.
This innovative approach crosses sectarian and national boundaries and integrates works from a variety of traditions and time periods that are linked together by history and the ways in which the people interacted with them in their original contexts. Visitors will also be exposed to the history, story literature, and a wide array of artistic styles that artists in these vibrant and diverse cultural regions have produced over the last two thousand years. The works themselves are from the collection of The San Diego Museum of Art, with particular emphasis on paintings from the Binney Collection.
The first gallery evokes the idea that divine presence multiplies itself into many forms throughout the created world. Therefore, the space will be filled with a wide variety of images in stone, bronze, wood, and paintings. While some of these works have been in the Museum’s collection for more than fifty years, and eleven of the objects are from the collection of Edwin Binney 3rd, twenty-five of the fifty-five pieces in this installation are new acquisitions that entered the Museum’s collection within the last ten years, and many of them have never before been shown.
Viewers will be introduced to the Buddhist art of Gandhara, a region of modern-day Pakistan, which includes icons as well as narrative reliefs and architectural pieces dating from the first through third centuries. This section will also include a special focus on the Silk Road and the role of Greco-Roman sculpture in the formation of the distinctive Gandharan style. Images associated with the worship of Hindu divinities, such as Shiva, Vishnu, and the Goddess, as they were conceived in India during the Medieval periods from the 6th to the 18th centuries will be shown. A presentation of later Buddhist art from eastern India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand concludes with a large reclining bronze Buddha that references his final death and nirvana. Finally, Jainism, a faith still prominent in India since the sixth century BCE, will be introduced with examples of sculpture from a local private collection and paintings from the Binney Collection.
The second space, Gallery 10, is dedicated to the presentation of arts, primarily miniature paintings, that were made for appreciation in palace settings and royal collections from regions throughout India and Iran. Since the paintings were made with water-based pigments on paper, they are subject to fading after extensive light exposure. Therefore, every six months, works from a different Rajput court will go on display. Fortunately, the Binney Collection has sizable and significant strengths from nearly every court in India from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries, which will support these twice yearly rotations.
Rajput princes, who controlled territories primarily in the modern states of Rajasthan and the Punjab, were tributary rulers under an imperial suzerain. Many of them were avid patrons of artists who were affiliated with their particular court. The works will range in date from the sixteenth to the early 19th century. They reveal the interests of the patrons, some of whom were devout followers of Krishna and commissioned works that depict scenes of the gods’ exploits. Others preferred large format individual tableaus of hunting scenes or the pleasures of life in the palace.
In the third gallery are works of art made for Muslim people, primarily from Iran, India, and Central Asia. Examples from the Museum’s extensive ceramic, album, and manuscript holdings show the sophistication and appreciation for art and literature among Muslim people throughout these regions. Virtuoso works of calligraphy are on view with pages from the holy book of Islam, the Koran, along with secular works that celebrate the skill or artists and craftspeople from the eleventh century onward.