The horizontal folio from a Kalpasutra manuscript consists of seven lines of text to the left and center broken by a squarish gold symbol framed in a red line and cusped blue lines. Gold diamond shapes framed in red are at the sides, with a vertical red line between the one on the left and the text. Between the text and the right diamond shape there is a painting consisting of three registers of figures against a red ground. The top row depicts three laymen wearing crowns, the middle two monks and a nun and the bottom row three nuns.
Some of the earliest Indian paintings on paper are found in manuscripts of the Kalpasutra, a popular text that recounts the lives the jinas or “spiritual victors” of the Jaina religion. The paper was cut into horizontal pages, following a long tradition of palm-leaf manuscripts. In paper as in earlier palm leaf books, loose-leaf pages were flipped, bottom to top, as one read them; the verso (back or reverse side) of one folio would be seen with the recto (front side) of the following page.
Here monks and nuns sit in rows offering homage to one of the jinas or a teacher, who probably was depicted on the preceding folio. The convention of depicting the faces in profile with a projecting “further eye” is common in early painting throughout northern India. It is only in the early sixteenth century that this “further eye” disappears. This manuscript page is the earliest painting in the exhibition.
A scene takes place in a red box, lined with black and red diamond and triangle designs for borders. In the center, a woman sites with a child in her lap. She wears a spotted dress, her hair up, and a nose ring and bindi. The child reaches one hand and places it atop her head, and the other down towards her own upward hands. Surrounding them are seven other figures. One kneels before them, offering his hands up, and another fans the woman from behind. The remaining five figures seem to play together in front of the throne on which the woman and child sit.
Gadhari, daughter of the King of Gandhar and wife of Dhritarashtra, was blessed by Rishi Vyasa to have 100 sons. She was pregnant for two years, and finally gave birth to a mass of flesh. Vyasa instructed her to cut the flesh into 101 pieces and places them in jars, one for each of 100 sons and one for a daughter. In two more years, the jars provided her with her 101 children of the Kaurava clan.
A standing man in a magnificent crested helmet addresses a bearded man in bedraggled clothes sitting on the ground before the mouth of a large barrel. The latter figure turns his head to respond and extends his right hand toward the other man. A group of soldiers crowd around.
Alexander the Great, wearing a crested helmet, approaches the philosopher Diogenes, who had famously rejected all worldly possessions to live in a burial urn. Eager to meet the philosopher, the all-powerful emperor asks what he may do for him. With a sharply dismissive wave of his right hand, Diogenes barks, "For now I want you to get out of my sunlight." Thunderstruck by this rejection, the emperor realizes that wealth and power do not bring true fulfillment.
A police officer at his post during the filming of a movie. There is a growing “police cult”; aficionados wear the odds and ends of uniforms, swagger along the street with handcuffs, keys and whistles dangling from their belts.
This print portrays a lively interior scene in the 17th century Dutch Republic. There are many figures around the large room, including men, women, and children. At the far right a man tries to embrace a resisting woman. Beside them, a man and a woman dance while a fiddler plays and others look on. On the left, a woman tends to a child as behind her a couple descend a wooden stairway from an upper floor. There are items such as cured meat, a lantern, a chair and laundry, hanging around this room.
This print by Adriaen van Ostade, one of the most important and influential seventeenth-century Dutch artists, is thought to depict a May Day celebration or a wedding feast and is one of the artist’s most complex compositions. The open space with jumbled elements in the background—a hanging chair, disorderly laundry, and stored basins and baskets—as well as the overturned stool in the foreground animate the scene, reinforcing the bustling activity and various emotions of the figures. Ostade came from a family of artists and worked as both a painter and a print-maker, specializing in depictions of peasants and genre subjects of people dancing, fighting, and generally reveling. Indeed, the source for this work—seen reversed in the print—is a painting by Ostade in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art.
This is a brightly colored painting on a light background. It depicts a three- tiered scene with several figures, standing and kneeling, looking toward a central seated figure in the top tier. This male figure is seated in lotus position on a throne, decorated with colorful designs. To his left and right are attendants who fan him. In the middle tier, there is a nude man with long hair, a kneeling woman and a figure who is half-man and half-serpent. In the bottom tier, there are two kneeling men, wearing robes and headdresses, with hands pressed together and eyes gazing upward toward the main figure. They are surrounded by a tiger, a bird, an insect and a serpent.
The dedication of sacred manuscript books for shrines is required of Jain devotees, and book production reflects the integral relationship among the laity, monastic community, and the Jina. Commissioning a book fulfills the lay obligation of charity, while beholding a book helps the individual achieve the proper mental state for spiritual guidance.
Jina are always depicted standing or seated in padmasana pose. This painting shows a “sky-clad,” or nude, Jina meditating peacefully with his legs crossed. All other figures in the image appear in full profile—a style that became popular by the end of the sixteenth century due to contact with Mughal art and its traditions of naturalistic portraiture. Seated below the Jina is a monk with a bookstand before him, indicating that he is teaching the royal patrons across from him.
In this painting, a mischievous demon is depicted in priest’s garb begging for alms.
This painting is an example of Otsu-e, a type of folk painting originating not far from Kyoto in the present-day Shiga Prefecture towns of Otsu, Oiwake, and Otani. Otsu-e were produced with cheap local materials and stencils were used to facilitate mass production, making them affordable even to the lower classes.
By the latter half of the seventeenth century, Otsu-e became more secular. This humorous painting among other Otsu-e had strong popular appeal, and made their way into the art and literature of famous Edo period figures. Otsu-e with iconography associated with beneficial powers would later function as amulets.
This work is a depiction of haniwa, clay figures used as tomb burial objects during the Kôfun Period (250–338 CE) that have come to be emblematic of Japanese art and cultural traditions.
Though initially simple clay cylinders, in the fourth century haniwa began to be shaped as warriors, female shrine attendants, everyday objects, and animals. In Saitô’s presentation these traditional figures are pared down to their essential shapes, their basic geometric components emphasized with blocks of patterns and colors reminiscent of Cubism. Dusted with malachite, Saitô’s prints of haniwa glitter in the light, evoking the dynamism of these occasionally playful clay sculptures.
Saitô Kiyoshi (1907–1997) was a member of the Creative Print (sôsaku hanga) movement, a group of artists dedicated to bringing individualism, experimentation, and autonomy to Japan’s centuries old ukiyo-e tradition. One of the most well-known forms of Japanese art, ukiyo-e is a type of woodblock print that first appeared in the mid- to late Edo period (1615–1868). Cheap to produce, widely available, and very popular in the late eighteenth century, by the early twentieth century when Saitô was working demand for woodblock prints in Japan was waning. Historically the production of ukiyo-e was dominated by giant publisher-controlled studios where the labor was divided and no single artist was responsible for creating an entire work. The Creative Print movement aimed to topple these traditions by bringing control of the woodblock print process into the hands of the individual artist.
In the past even famous ukiyo-e artists like Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) were responsible only for the initial steps of the process. The artist would draw a design that would be handed off to the carver, who cut around the lines, creating a separate block for each color of the print. Finally, the printer placed paper on top of an inked block and rubbed it with a special pad made of bamboo fibers. Creative Print artists performed each of these steps themselves, seeing a print through from start to finish. This essential difference emphasized the artist as a talented individual and distanced the modern woodblock print from what was seen by many Japanese as its plebian origins. Saitô was a distinguished printmaker, whose success in the international art world helped bring the Creative Print movement to prominence and raised the status of the modern print in Japan.