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Art From Us MUSEUM GUIDE : The Metropolitan Museum of Art : Gallery 242

The MET : Gallery 242 : South Asian Hindu-Buddhist and Jain Sculpture

Art From Us Museum Guide #560

Art From Us presents a must-see Museum Guide daily, where we showcase specific artworks in specific museums – from across the globe. Today, for Art From Us, Museum Guide #560 the spotlight is on the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET) NY’s Gallery 242. Showcasing a collection of South Asian Hindu-Buddhist and Jain Sculpture. 

The three works in focus are :

  1. Buddha Offering Protection, from the 10th century.
  2. Avalokiteshvara, The Bodhisattva of infinite compassion, ca the 9th century.
  3. Buddha Offering Protection, from the 18th century.

The significance of the 3 works chosen for Art From Us Museum Guide #560

Welcome to the Art From Us, Museum Guide #560. Before we begin we would like to share a statistic from the MET’s website with you. That is, that the Asian Art Department has

” more than 35,000 objects, ranging in date from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the 21st century—”

Every Museum Guide is different, yet we find ourselves returning to the MET. With its extensive galleries and unparalleled collection, our exploration of the Museum and its Collection is addictive and perhaps one life shan’t be enough.

On the subject of today’s particular Art From Us, Museum Guide #560 we find ourselves exploring the Metropolitan Museum NY’s Gallery 242. Part of the Asian Art department at the MET, Gallery 242 is part of a series of Galleries that are known as The Florence and Herbert Irving South Asian Galleries ( named after the Irving Family in 1994. They have been great benefactors of the MET for over 30 years). In particular, these galleries are from Gallery 234 through to Gallery 243.

The Irving’s and the MET

We cannot talk about the MET Asian Art department without first talking about the Irving Family. As it states on their website, the MET CEO ( in 2017) – Daniel H. Weiss, said of the family and their close association with the Museum :

“The Irvings have been inspirational donors in building the Museum’s collections and galleries of Asian Art since 1987. This additional gift is truly transformative for The Met, and will ensure that the legacy of scholarship, programming, and collection-building they have been so instrumental in building will continue to thrive,”

Here in the above statement, Weiss is referring to the landmark bequest of $80 million made by the Irving’s that same year. In order to fully grasp the magnitude of their influence, it is important to know who Herbert Irving was. Co-founder of the food conglomerate giant Sysco, Herbert Irving and his wife Florence were keen collectors of Asian Art. Beyond the arts, the Irving’s have supported the research and treatment of Cancer through donations that exceed $1 Billion. Mr Irving passed away in 2016, at the age of 98. As of writing this article, Mrs Florence Irving is hail and hearty and finds herself at the top of Town and Country’s Top 50 Philanthropists of the Year list. 

Moving back to the significance of the 3 works chosen for Art From Us Museum Guide #560

We have focussed on three forms of the Buddha. They all differ in structure, size and material. They have been specifically chosen by us as they all originate from the same geographical Region – Sri Lanka. What caught our attention are the specific time-periods they belong to.

The first sculpture or artefact chosen is Buddha Offering Protection, from the 10th century. Constructed of copper alloy with gilding, the piece can be traced back to the Early Polonnaruwa Period. Thus placing it from a time-period in history that saw the Tamil Nadu Chola Kings conquer the Northern part of present-day Sri Lanka.

The second sculpture chosen is Avalokiteshvara, The Bodhisattva of infinite compassion, ca the 9th century. Dating from the Anuradhapura Period, the sculpture is made of pure bronze. What is most interesting is that the Anuradhapura period saw the first invasion from the Chola Kings. Namely, Raja Raja Chola I.

The third sculpture/artefact chosen is a significantly later work, in comparison to our first two choices. It is the Buddha Offering Protection, from the 18th century. The materials of construction are ivory with polychrome and the sculpture is from the Kandyan Period.

Each work weaves a story of culture, warfare, and survival. In each time-period, under differing rulers, the image of the compassionate Buddha was created. For me, the Buddha is a representation of peace, harmony and forgiveness.  In all three sculptures chosen today these three ideas come through.

If you enjoyed this article, read more of our suggestions for the Art From Us, Museum Guide and what objects to see, in the Museum Guide Archive

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