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  • Thumbnail for Sarasvati

    Information provided by the museum label states, "The religion of Jainism has existed since the fifth century B.C. Like other faiths in India, it teaches that an ultimate goal in life is to seek release from continual rebirth; it also, however, stresses individual responsibility in this process. Jainism honors a large pantheon of deities and supportive beings, many of which are borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism. "The image of Sarasvati, a goddess respected by both Hindus and Jains, once stood in a Jain temple in India. She sits displaying vara mudra (the gesture of charity) with her left hand. In her right hand she carries a book; in her upper-left and right hands she holds a festooned noose and an elephant goad, attributes normally associated with the elephant-headed god Ganesha. He and Saravati are usually invoked together before beginning literary enterprises." -- India, Karnataka -- Gray chloritic schist -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 224.1997)

  • Thumbnail for Japanese ceramics:  Ewer, view 2, Oribe-ware.
    Japanese ceramics: Ewer, view 2, Oribe-ware. by unknown

    Stoneware with white and copper-green glazes, underglaze iron brushwork. - This image shows the opposite side of the vessel shown in image ecasia000366. It is an Oribe-ware ewer, showing the characteristic contrasting elements of Oribe-wares - white glazed areas with underglaze iron brushwork, often geometric patterns based on motifs from nature, contrasted with the freely poured patterns of copper green glaze. -- The image presented in ecasia000366 [enter that i.d. as a keyword search to view the image easily] was photographed in an Art Institute exhibit, "East Asian Ceramics, Then and Now," summer, 2005. It was placed in such a manner that it could be viewed from one side only [no reference to the MOMA Duchamp...]. The view presented here, ecasia000943, was photographed in a different Art Institute exhibit, "The Practice of Tea from the Edo Period to Today," on view during the spring and early summer, 2007. The vessel was placed in a case that allowed the viewing of both sides of the vessel in the second exhibit, permitting this second view, which provides an interesting look at the different nature of the design patterns on the two sides of the spout. On one side, the pattern is entirely the geometricized pattern of the hexagonal motif, perhaps derived from the abstraction of a flower form. On the other side of the spout is a combination of simplified, naturalistic flower motives and geometric abstractions of that form (the five lobed set of dots set around a central dot) and a pattern of straight linear strokes that may be an abstraction of the pattern formed by a fence. All of that activity is combined, of course, with the richness of contrast of created pattern / poured glaze, discussed in reference to image ecasia000366. -- One other point of interest to note in comparing the two views is the different position of the lid in the two views and the very different sense of patterning created by the different positions. -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (Gift of Robert Allerton, 1959.5) -- [Note also the difference in the color rendering between the two views, showing dramatically and unfortunately the difficulty of achieving accurate color representation in situations such as these, where the lighting in artificial and over which the photographer has no control. Both images have been edited somewhat to adjust the color balance in the image, but they remain different from one another and it is probably true that neither image is a truly accurate representation of the color of the actual object. This will be compounded by the fact that very few computer monitors are calibrated the same way, meaning that, even if the online images were completely true in color representation, it is likely that they would appear different on every monitor used to view them. Hence, in discussing images viewed online, one must be very careful and somewhat skeptical in discussing color; it is rarely accurate.]

  • Thumbnail for Bodhisattva

    The museum labels states, "This handsome, well-modeled figure depicts a bodhisattva, an enlightened being who selflessly remains in the cycle of death and rebirth in order to help others attain enlightenment. His relaxed posture is typical of a teacher while discoursing, but it is unusual for a bodhisattva. It is a form of paryankasana,in which one foot rests on the opposite thigh (paryanka)." -- Nepal, Kathmandu Valley -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 134.1996)

  • Thumbnail for Buddha

    The museum label reads, "This meditating figure, conveying spiritual strength and solidity, was carved for placement by a shrine or in a monastery. Sitting in the lotus pose with his hands resting in the gesture of meditation, he can be identified as the Buddha by his elongated earlobes, the lotus marks on his palms, the third eye of insight, and his cranial bump with a flame of wisdom. On the back of the sculpture is a long inscription in Tamil, a language of southern India. "In India, artists were not strictly committed to fashioning works for clients of a single religion. Distinctive regional styles, however, were more pronounced. for example, this sculpture has characteristics that mark it as non-Indian because it was made for Indonesian Buddhist patrons living in the Indian port city of Nagapattinam. Interestingly, these artists were supported by the Hindu ruler of the Chola dynasty." Coll. Art Institute of Chicago, Restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Andrew Brown, 1964.556

  • Thumbnail for Vajradhara, Primordial Buddha from Tibet
    Vajradhara, Primordial Buddha from Tibet

    As described on the museum label,"Although elaborately adorned like a bodhisattva, this figure in fact represents Vajradhara, the Primordial Buddha. He is seated in a meditation posture with his hands crossed, holding a thunderbolt and a bell in the gesture known as vajrahumkara (the adamantine sound). He is not only the originator of the Five Transcendental Buddhas but also embodies shunyata, or voidness." -- Silver and semiprecious stones -- Southern Tibet -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 197.1997)

  • Thumbnail for Harihara

    The museum label states: "This sculpture from a temple niche represents Harihara, a figure combining Shiva (right half) and Vishnu (left half). Shiva has a crown of matted locks and holds a trident as his emblem of power. His bull, Nandi (missing its head), stands at his side. Vishnu's crown is miterlike, and he holds the conch and discus. The pairing of these two deities and their symbols represents the paradox of simultaneous destruction and creation in nature." -- India, Madhya Pradesh -- Red Sandstone -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (Lent by the Pritzker Fmily, 516.1983)

  • Thumbnail for Head of a Transcendental Buddha
    Head of a Transcendental Buddha

    The following information is from the museum label: "The Five Transcendental Buddhas are manifestations of five aspects of the Buddha's nature. Each embodies a different sort of wisdom, such as equanimity or accomplishment. This concept developed primarily in Mahayana Buddhism and suggests that it is possible to reach enlightenment through a variety of spiritual paths. In central Java, where their worship was popular, the Five Transcendental Buddhas are often depicted together in temples. Because only the head of this Buddha remains, it is difficult to identify which of the five it represents." -- medium: Andesite -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 188.1997) -- A broader note on the development Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia: "Three main schools of Buddhism developed over time, each concerned with the path to salvation, the path to freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth. - "Hinayana Buddhism holds that salvation lies in monastic life and the teachings of the historical Buddha, who guided others by his own example of enlightenment. Hinayana art usually focuses on depicting the Buddha's life and image. This school, often known as the Southern Tradition, flourished in India but was adopted in Sri Lanka and much of Southeast Asia by the medieval era. - "Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism are often called the Northern Traditions. Mahayana Buddhism asserts that there are a variety of paths to enlightenment, and Mahayana artists create images of the Five Transcendental Buddhas in order to visualize the five holy qualities that led to salvation. During the medieval period, Mahavaya Buddhism became popular in China, Korea, and Japan. At the same time, Vajrayana Buddhism matured in Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia with the establishment of new relationships between Buddhist and local deities. Vajrayana art varies widely in content and style, reflecting the blending of many religious traditions."


    Information provided by the museum label states, "In Tibet, the religious teacher (lama or guru) has a special significance. The great Fifth Dalai Lama, sitting in a classic pose of meditation, is honored in this three-dimensional portrait. He is an important figure in Tibetan history because of the key role he played in consolidating spiritual and political rule in the country during the 17th century. He is famous for building the Potala Palace, which towers over the capital city of Lhasa, and for establishing close diplomatic relations with the Manchu court of China. During his lifetime, he was publicly recognized as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion.†-- Gilt bronze -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (Kate S. Buckingham Endowment, 1996.31)

  • Thumbnail for Boar (Varaha) Incarnation of Vishnu
    Boar (Varaha) Incarnation of Vishnu

    As described on the museum label, "According to Hindu mythology, the earth began to sink under the burden of evil or overpopulation, and Vishnu, assuming the form of a boar (Varaha), recovered her from the ocean. This work represents the moment when Varaha (usually depicted as an anthropomorphic figure with a boar's head) has rescued the earth, personified as a beautiful woman perched demurely on his bent left elbow. She lays her right hand gently on his snout both for support and as a token of gratitude. The serpents (nagas) below vishnu's left foot symbolize water." -- Red sandstone -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf, 1997.707)

  • Thumbnail for Priest's Crown
    Priest's Crown

    As described by the museum label, "This crown would have adorned the head of a Buddhist priest during the performance of religious rituals. At its apex, it is adorned with a finial that represents a thunderbolt (vajra). The Vajrayana Buddhism practiced in Nepal takes its name from this powerful symbol, which represents the indestructibility of knowledge and enlightenment. Five images of the Transcendental Buddhas also encircle the crown on a series of ovoid plaques. By wearing the crown during a ritual, the priest would be drawn into the essence of the five Buddhas." -- Nepal, Kathmandu Valley -- Repousse gilt copper -- Coll. Art Institute of Chicago (James W. and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, 236.1997)