Media only: Brenda Kean Tabor: 202.633.0523
Barbara Kram: 202.633.0520
Public only: 202.633.1000
“I am over my head in love with India!” said Charles Lang Freer, founder of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, in an 1894 letter he wrote home from his first trip to the subcontinent. This Oct. 16, visitors to the gallery will be able to share in Mr. Freer’s enthusiasm when the gallery inaugurates a new long-term installation, showcasing the extraordinary range of South Asian and Himalayan art in the collection—considered to be among the most important in the world. “Arts of the Indian Subcontinent and the Himalayas” remains open indefinitely, with periodic rotations of light-sensitive objects.

Increasing by half the space previously devoted to this region and expanding the scope of works on view, the exhibition includes sublimely beautiful Buddhist, Jain, Hindu and Islamic objects, as well as masterpieces of Mughal and Rajput paintings and lavishly decorated court arts and daggers made for the Mughal emperors.

Divided into several sections, the Buddhist art charts the emergence of the Buddha image in India and its transmission throughout Asia and includes fine Buddhist images from Nepal, Tibet, Southeast Asia and China.

Buddhist works on view include:

  • A stupa relief from around the first century B.C. depicting the worship of the Buddha in symbolic form from the earliest phase of Buddhist art, in which the Buddha was never depicted in human form
  • An early second- to late third century stone frieze from Gandhara (now Afghanistan-Pakistan) depicting the four great life events of the Buddha
  • A fourth- to fifth-century sandstone sculpture of the Buddha from the Gupta dynasty (320-550) whose images of the Buddha inspired the entire Buddhist world
  • A Nepalese-style Chinese lacquer statue of a bodhisattva from the Yuan dynasty (13th century)
  • A Tibetan sculpture of the bodhisattva of compassion from the 11th-12th century

Jain works on view reveal the five stages of Jina’s life, from embryo to transcendence: the last is represented by a rare shrine featuring the silhouette of the Jina—powerfully depicting his liberation from the world of Karma.

Among the Hindu works on view are:

  • A Ganga period (750-1250) ivory throne leg, proclaiming royal command
  • A Ganga period shrine of Vishnu with consorts that recreates an Orissan temple tower in miniature form
  • A lively 12th-century bronze statue of the dancing Child Saint Sambandar
  • The beautifully sensuous and famous Freer Chola statue “Queen Semiyan Mahadevi as the Goddess Parvati”
  • The Freer’s recently acquired Chola statue “Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance”

Early pre-Mughal Sultanate period (ca. 1206-1526) works on view include a manuscript page from a Khamse (quintet) of Amir Khusraw Dihlavi. The wide range of Mughal objects on view includes:

  • Two allegorical paintings commissioned by the Emperor Jahangir that represent his desires to best his rival, Shah ‘Abbas of Persia, and a third that depicts an imaginary visit of King James I of England to the Mughal court
  • A Ganga period shrine of Vishnu with consorts that recreates an Orissan temple tower in miniature form
  • Several Mughal luxury objects, including a knife made for the Emperor Jahangir out of meteoric iron and decorated with gold inlay; a dagger with a white jade handle inlaid with gold, rubies and emeralds; and an intricately decorated enamel spice box

Several Rajput paintings on the theme of love, which demonstrate the bold colors and rhythmic compositions of the Hindu courts, are also on view. Exquisitely crafted, imposing late 19th to early 20th century examples of gold jewelry complete the exhibition.

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Ave. S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Dec. 25, and admission is free. Public tours are offered daily except Wednesdays and federal holidays. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 357-1729, or visit the special, exhibition-related section of the galleries’ Web site at

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