Wrapping cloth (bojagi)

“Bojagi” is a general term for all wrapping cloths in Korea. Most bojagi were made with specific people and functions in mind, like when mothers crafted bojagi for their daughters before weddings. Bojagi were viewed more as craft pieces than artwork, and it is only in recent decades that the aesthetic value of bojagi was rediscovered. By sewing together small, used cloth of various shapes and skillfully juxtaposing vibrant colors, the unknown makers of these bojagi created an exciting design akin to modern abstract art.

Depending on its function, design, structure, and user, bojagi can have other names. For example, bojagi made for covering a table is called “sang bo” (“sang” means table, and “bo” is an abbreviation of bojagi). Because the bojagi on display are patchworks of cloth remnants, they are “jogak bo” (“jogak” means small pieces). Different names apply to various patchwork designs, as well as suggest those meant for royalty and for ordinary people.

Recession

Letters from the Thai alphabet are loosely pinned together to form an outline of the Buddha. These letters, cut from industrial mesh, form Buddhist sayings that Jakkai Siributr, a practicing Buddhist, chants daily. Amulets depicting the Buddha, respected monks, and kings hang from the text. Amulets are charms blessed by monks and given to worshippers at temples, often worn on the body as a reminder of the Buddha’s teachings. As Jakkai has observed in Thailand, amulets blessed by monks believed to possess magic powers have become talismans that are being worshipped by people so that good fortune, prosperity, and safety will come their way. Jakkai views the use of amulets for luck and instant gratification as a perversion of their intended function as inspiration to devotees. He notes that the absent Buddha, present only in outline, represents the disappearance of Buddhism’s true principles.

Jakkai Siributr works primarily in the textile medium. His fascination with textiles and embroidery began as a child in Bangkok, and he went on to study textile design in college and graduate school in the United States before returning to live and work in Thailand. His meticulously handmade tapestry and installation works make statements about religious, social, and political issues in contemporary Thailand. His art is preoccupied with the interaction of Buddhism and materialism in modern life and with the everyday popular culture of Thailand.

Bowl with Arabic inscription

This bowl represents a high point in epigraphic ware production under the Persian Samanid dynasty (819-1005). The elaborate kufic version of the Arabic script is embellished with knotted interlaces and leafy flourishes that show off the artisan’s skill. A sharp instrument was used to achieve the crisp edges of the slipware-painted script. The decoration of this bowl consists of an Arabic proverb that may be translated as, “Surely knowledge is the noblest of the innumerable virtues and manliness is the most intricate of lineages.” This proverb is also found on wares now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Reza Abbasi Museum, Tehran. Inscriptions on other bowls and dishes discuss the delights of eating, and it has been suggested that reading the inscriptions may have provided a form of entertainment. In cosmopolitan Samanid society this might have been the case.

The conical bowl form with straight, flaring sides and a flat base is a practical one and seems to derive, as do many Islamic ceramic forms, from a more expensive metal prototype in silver.

Jar

This type of globular porcelain jar, known as a moon jar (dal hang-ari), was loved by Korean people in part because its white color suggested Confucian virtues of purity, honesty, and modesty. Although porcelain wares were produced concurrently with celadons during the Goryeo dynasty (918-1392), not until the Joseon dynasty did they come into prominence. From about 1600 on, porcelain came to dominate the field of Korean ceramics because the preference for the color white dominated Korean aesthetics throughout the Joseon dynasty.

Ewer with lid

Goryeo dynasty ewers often derived their shapes from natural forms such as melons or double gourds. This ewer, however, takes its shape from a metal prototype, judging from the cylindrical body, the sharp angled flat shoulder, and the looping flat handle accented with a crisp outline. Its lid, which is in the form of a double lotus and has a jewel on the top, makes an effective contrast to the simple unadorned body. The glaze covers the bottom of the base and the foot is carefully wiped. The traces of three spur marks can be spotted under the glaze at the bottom. The gray-blue glaze is thin, transparent, and lustrous.

The beauty of this refined form and exquisite glaze exemplifies the highest aesthetic quality demanded by the court and the aristocracy. Celadon works such as this piece prompted the young Chinese official Xu Jing (1091-1153), who came with the Chinese embassy to Korea in 1123 from the court of Huizong emperor (r. 1101-1125), to compare Goryeo celadon to Chinese imperial ru wares that were produced in China at the time as well as the “secret color” of earlier Chinese yue wares. In a later time the outstanding beauty of Goryeo celadon made another Chinese writer, whose pen name was Taiping Laoren, to include them among the objects he considered the “first under heaven.”

Bowl with two birds

The large birds and stylized rosettes resembling lollipops on this deep bowl exemplify one of the most endearing types of slipware produced in Iran throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Called “Sari ware” after the town just south of the Caspian Sea where many similar examples were found, these ceramics follow earlier techniques of production and decoration. The motif of a parrot or hawk attacking another bird is typical of the decoration found on such bowls. The characteristic white dots punctuating the large bird’s eye and the feathers in this bowl are not new, although they are combined in an innovative and dynamic way, showing that late provincial production for local consumption could remain vibrant.

Base for a water pipe

The central plateau region of southern India, called the Deccan, was home to several Islamic dynasties whose patronage supported the development of distinctive art forms and styles. This water pipe (huqqa) base represents a type of inlaid metal ware known as bidri, after the Deccani city of Bidar, where the production technique is said to have been practiced since the fifteenth century. Bidri water pipe bases were probably first produced shortly after tobacco was introduced into the Deccan by Portuguese traders in the late sixteenth century.

Architecture, landscapes, and animals are almost never found on bidri ware. Most examples depict floral designs. The pavilions decorating this water pipe base recall chini khanas, or “china rooms,” popular architectural features during the Mughal period in north India (1526-1858). Their multiple niches were used to display objects such as Chinese porcelains, which were highly prized at South Asian courts.

Mandala of the Buddhist deity Vajrabhairava

Mandalas are schematic designs of the three-dimensional palaces of Tibetan deities. They serve as aids for meditation and for visualization of particular deities. While painted mandalas are usually found in museums’ collections, examples in metal are very rare.

Vajrabhairava is the central deity of this mandala. He is a fierce form of Manjushri, bodhisattva of wisdom; Manjushri adopts this terrifying form in order to conquer death. His violent aspect is emphasized by his rectangular bull’s face with its eleven heads, his threatening horns, and his body with thirty-four outstretched hands and sixteen trampling feet.

Serpent king (nagaraja)

Nagas (supernatural serpents) often appear in Indian mythology. They can take on partial or complete human form, as in this sculpture of a naga king. The man and the seven-headed serpent here are understood to be two forms of the same being. Nagas are associated with fertility and the life-giving powers of water in the world’s rivers, lakes, and oceans. They are usually benevolent and even protective, not evil or threatening as in the mythology of many other parts of the world. The inscription on the base of the image says that it was made in 207, during the reign of the Kushan king Vasudeva. It reads:

In the regnal year eighty, 80, of the Great King, the King over Kings, the son of the Gods, the Shahi Vasudeva, in the second month of the rainy season, 2, at the third day, at this date this image of the venerable Nakra was installed as the gift of the general Trivahana [?] [and] of the sons of the Account Keeper of the Treasury, Sulakshaka. Yallarah [?]. May the Lord Nagaraja be pleased. (Translation by Prof. Harry Falk)

Page of calligraphy

Mir Ali Haravi was so famous as a calligrapher that the major artistic patrons of his age in Iran, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan fought for his services. Examples of his work were collected by royal patrons in India and Iran in the centuries to follow. Mir Ali produced designs for large-scale architectural inscriptions as well as album page like this one. He was the master of nasta’liq (“hanging script”), the script in which the verses here are written. The aesthetic appeal of elegant poetry was enhanced by the work of skilled calligraphers and illuminators, as seen in this example.