Walking through the Pillared Temple Hall exhibit is a magical and other-worldly experience. The more than sixty carved granite elements in it were found, piled as rubble, within the compound of a 16th C. Krishna temple by Philadelphian Adeline Pepper Gibson during her visit to the south of India in 1912. The temple hall was originally part of the Madana Gopala Swamy temple complex, most of which still stands in Maduri in southern India.
Gibson purchased the pile of rubble from the temple authorities. Just four years later Gibson died at age 37 in an influenza epidemic, and her family donated the collection to the Philadelphia Museum. The museum assembled them and opened the exhibit in 1920. Recent curatorial research shows that the pieces once formed a freestanding festival hall located in front of the main shrine.
Decorated Fireman's Coat
This interior of a Fireman's Coat from 1800s Japan was fascinating. The coats were made from heavy woven cotton which was soaked in water for protection against heat and flames.
The right side of these coats were usually a dark indigo with a simple geometric design, but the inside would be decorated with symbols designed to empower the firefighter. This elaborately decorated coat interior depicts Momotaro, a Japanese folk hero famous for his bravery, as he triumphantly subdues a thieving ogre. "Wearing images of forceful creatures or scenes of bravery close to the body was believed to empower the firemen." - Phila Museum of Art description.
Maternal Caress, c. 1896. by Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) Oil. Mary Cassatt attended the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Art a couple of years before Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson (below), and also went to Paris to further her education. Both women had works displayed at the Chicago Exposition. Cassatt became the only American invited to exhibit with the Impressionists. In the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Honey of the Hymettus
This oil painting by Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson (1847-1906) is "Honey of the Hymettus" (1891). It references the famous honey that the bee-keepers of ancient Athens produced in the Hymettus mountains, and was exhibited at the 1892 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
Sarah Paxton Ball Dodson was born in Philadelphia on February 22, 1847. By the time she was three it was evident that she loved to draw. Her father was interested in artistic pursuits, and had done line engraving and miniature painting, however, he did not believe that women should be professional artists, and opposed her formal study. After his death in 1872 she enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and after that, went to France to study. Dodson became recognized as one of the leading American women artists of the late 19th century.
Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art at 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The museum is closed on Mondays, and offers "Pay What You Wish" admission on the first Sunday of the month and every Wednesday night.