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Jain Miniatures at the Met

February 21, 2010

The South Asian Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art have a new exhibition that is a must-see if you have any interest at all in the Graphic Arts.

Titled “Peaceful Conquerors: Jain Manuscript Painting”, it is a superb collection of pictorial manuscripts of the Jain text Kalpasutra. Jainism is a non-violent, ascetic religion whose founder, Mahavira, was a contemporary of the Buddha. The manuscripts in this exhibition date to the twelfth century, when paper was introduced to India from Iran.

The illustrations in the manuscript are remarkable vibrant colour palette, limited to five colours: gold, silver, red, ultramarine blue and black. What is even more interesting is the rare glimpse of Indian Calligraphy of that period. Written in the ancient Brahmi Script, the manuscripts display the unique lettering and rhythm that survives into Indian letterforms today.

While you are there, don’t miss the opportunity to renew your acquaintance with the rest of the Florence and Herbert Irving Galleries for the Arts of South and Southeast Asia. There is more Jain Art, including an entire roof from a Jain Temple, as well as other breathtaking pieces from the region.

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