Garland of Gold

During last month’s visit to Washington DC, I made a point of visiting some of the lesser known member museums of the Smithsonian Institute. To this end, I visited the National Museum of Asian Art, otherwise known as the Freer and Sackler galleries. On the Smithsonian scale, these two mini-museums adjoin each other and both of them descend from the private collections of their namesakes. Housed in separate buildings, they are connected underground. Their connecting tunnel began for me, off of the Freer Gallery room that currently houses an exhibit on Chinese Yong bells, as featured in this morning’s post. At the other end of this tunnel, in the Sackler Gallery, is an exhibit on Asian Indian art than includes the pictured Jasmine bud necklace: 

In traditional Indian culture, to be unadorned is to be incomplete. For this reason, bronze deities were cast with garments and ornaments as part of their bodies. On festival occasions, they were further covered in heaps of flower garlands and jewelry. Arranged in a sunburst pattern, the tendrils of this gold necklace evoke a garland’s fragrant jasmine buds. Its large scale suggests that it may have encircled the neck of a sculpture of Nandi, Shiva’s devoted bull. This artwork comes from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and is made with gold and red semiprecious stones.

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