Pictures are NOT from the Special Ming Dynasty Exhibit,
they are from the permanent collection....
This head is at least four feet high,
both simple and massive it reflects
a serene Buddha mind.
This recently passed Friday, having been abandoned at the very last minute by both son and boyfriend*, I set off on my own to the Ming Dynasty exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. It was a glorious day to be driving up the coast, the ocean in my left and a clear blue sky above. The further north one goes the higher and wilder the hills get, mostly tawny brown and olive green this time of year. Here and there bright green geometric shapes of irrigated agriculture punctuate the wilderness. I arrived without mishap and dove my little blue car, known as "Little Blue", down into an underground parking.
This Buddha seems a bit coy
with his hand gesture and asymetrical posture.
Paid for admission, stopped in the rest room, cleaned my glasses and set off, ready to be stunned by the exhibit subtitled "Power and Glory". I went to what was supposed to the last room first by mistake or just plain ignorance. Unfortunately photography is NOT permitted in special exhibits, just on the 2nd and 3 rd floors of the museum, so I cannot show you what I saw. (Not strictly true I could scan some images from the exhibit catalog.) At first I thought "what is the big deal", dutifully, I read placards and gazed at six foot tall portraits; noting that the Minister Gu Lin seemed to suffer from strabismus (wall eye). The realistic portrayal of this way ward eye reflects the accuracy of at least the face portion of these hanging scrolls.
I have never seen a multi-armed Buddha before,
but maybe I just haven't been around.
Most often painted during the lifetime of the subject, they were hung on a wall behind an altar table with incense burners for the family members to worship. Whether it was the bi-directional stare of the minister or my mind simply catching up with my body I suddenly realized that these people didn't have machines, or computer programmed lasers, or Photoshop, or even internet craft suppliers. The perfectly woven yellow silk robe, which I thought a bit garish and the scales on the dragon on the robe which I found very much too even, too machine made, wasn't machine made, but was a tribute to the honed and practiced skill
of the human hand or more probably dozens of hands.
Isn't she just lovely? I'd have her over for tea
but I don't know how many cups to put out.
Delicately executed ink brush tones, exquisite calligraphy, 12 foot long scrolls showing the pursuits of the nobility, a pillow made from purple mahogany in the shape of a lotus leaf,
on and on. Not all was perfect dragons chasing the pearl of great price, there was a little wine cup which showed a scholar with his pet goose awaiting his mentor, a scroll that included
a courtesan playing soccer, a very popular game at the time.
This fellow sports spots and stripes; a tiger leopard ?
He is certainly pleased with himself.
The Ming Dynasty had quite a fleet of sailing ships, the size of the ships themselves made Columbus' ships look like a mouse next to a lion. More perfect brocade and silk weavings and a ceramic lion gate piece, which alone seemed awesome but it was part of a 24 piece set.
Boggled and starving I stumbled into the somewhat over priced museum cafe`. It all that perfection and refinement makes one feel very small and insignificant, but I suppose that is the point, isn't it?
Nice shapes make this camel and the face
seems to disapprove of over loading.
After lamb curry with actual Asian green beans and basmati rice. which was not inspired, but seemed sustaining, I glided smoothly up the escalator to floors where photographer was allowed. On entering the Buddha room I felt better. Could have been the effect of food, but I do have a weakness for Buddhas. My real work started here, since I had failed in my true mission in the Ming exhibit. My true mission being to find rabbits.
This stag is from Northern Iran, 1200-800 BCE,
I love his simple geometric shapes and earthy smoothness.
On the 2nd and 3rd floors I found some nice animals, and some multi- armed deities, for which I also have a pronounced weakness. Of course, Ganesha is always a hit with me, being both animal and a multi-armed. This particular Ganesha had a slot in his pedestal for offerings. I put in a handful of change. As a remover of obstacles his services always come in handy.
Next Time: Rabbits and Some Spots at the Asian Art Museum.
Isn't Ganesha very nice ?
* They both had fairly good reasons....