Beneath The Banyan Tree - Terracotta and Brass Images

Brass toy chariotThe terracotta and brass objects are made as votive offerings or as icons of the gods and goddesses of the Hindu world. These are placed under trees as objects of worship or are found in home shrines, and they continue to be worshipped throughout their lifetime. As figures of the gods and goddesses themselves, they recall mythological stories of these deities, stories that are often told at the time of worship, especially by women. Most of these images derive from the Bihar/Bengal region. These objects are drawn from the Ruth Reeves Collection of Indian Folk Art, owned by Syracuse University.

Brass figurineRuth Reeves was an American artist who taught at Columbia University and the Cooper Union Art School. In the 1940s, she began to study abroad, first going to South America and then to India in 1956 as one of the first Fulbright scholars. Becoming interested in cire perdue, a method of making brass objects also known as ‘lost wax’, she wrote the definitive book on Indian cire perdue in the late 1950s. She went on to work with the All-India Handicraft Board and aided the Census of India in its 1961 monographs on the native crafts of individual villages. Her influence on the development of the study of Indian folk art was immense.

Terracotta Durga on lion.In 1963, Ms. Reeves approached Laurence Schmeckebier, Director of the Syracuse University School of Art, about acquiring her collection of textiles, numbering “300 museum quality pieces” as well as ceramic, wood, and metal objects yet to be acquired. After Ms. Reeves death in New Delhi in 1966, the Fulbright office was able to send the remainder of her collection, although the Government of India refused to allow the textiles to leave the country. Some eventually went to the University of Wisconsin while the remainder form the core collection of the National Crafts Museum in New Delhi.

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