Rare Buddhist art acquired by the Met, on display through February

Buddha Shakyamuni in brass, sculpted in Tibet 12th - 13th c., a highlight at the Met's "Masterpieces of Tibetan and Nepalese Art: Recent Acquisitions."

Tucked away in its Gallery 251, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art last week opened a small exhibit of Buddhist art with a big claim. The fourteen objects on display in “Masterpieces of Tibetan and Nepalese Art: Recent Acquisitions” include five sculptures which, according to Art Daily, “are among the rarest and most important such objects to enter a Western collection.”

The works, created between the 11th and 17th centuries, all come from the Zimmerman Family Collection. Said Met curator John Guy, “Almost every major exhibition of Himalayan art mounted over the past four decades has featured works from this collection.” These included the seminal “Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet” exhibit in 1991, the mammoth catalog for which has become a classic reference on the subject.

The Met offers this explanation for the particular significance of this time and geography in the evolution of sacred Buddhist art in the Himalaya:

“The aesthetic achievements and sense of beauty of Tibetan and Nepalese art rest on complex cultural and religious foundations. Almost all the deities depicted originated in India, from where they were adapted and integrated into their respective cultural environments. While Buddhism predominated in Tibet, Hinduism and Buddhism evolved in parallel and have both been practiced in Nepal for many centuries, with profound theological and visual overlap. In this sense, it is in Nepal where the crosscurrents of Indo-Tibetan culture are perhaps most evident in its art.”

Masterpieces of Tibetan and Nepalese Art: Recent Acquisitions continues through Feb. 2, 2014. Click here for a full description, as well as the times for related gallery talks and classes.

Image from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.