Baltimore, MD—Striking works of Himalayan art depict wrathful Buddhist deities with fearsome qualities. Although they may appear intimidating, the deities use their power to guard against antagonists and thwart obstacles to the spiritual goals of their devotees. The Walters’ new exhibition, Ferocious Beauty: Wrathful Deities from Tibet and Nepal, features 12 sculptures, paintings, and ritual objects drawn primarily from the John and Berthe Ford Collection. It will be on view November 13, 2016 through April 16, 2017, and admission to the exhibition is free.
In their ritual contexts, the artworks featured in Ferocious Beauty could serve as both objects of devotion and models for the visualization of the deities during meditation. Many wrathful deities trample obstacles to enlightenment, such as hatred or desire, personified as figures lying helplessly under their feet. The weapons they wield destroy forces such as delusion and pride. By visualizing oneself as these deities, one can also destroy these obstacles and come closer to enlightenment.
“Representations of wrathful Buddhist deities are among the most powerful images of the divine from South Asia, but they’re also among the most perplexing to viewers encountering them for the first time,” said Katherine Kasdorf, Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow. “Despite their intimidating characteristics, these deities are deeply compassionate. They direct their fury at harmful forces, such as ignorance and hatred, helping their devotees come closer to spiritual liberation.”
Through their generous gift to the museum, John and Berthe Ford have enriched the Walters’ collection with more than 200 sculptures, paintings, and ritual objects from India, Nepal, Tibet, and surrounding regions.
Ferocious Beauty has been curated by Katherine Kasdorf, Wieler-Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, working with a team of educators, conservators, designers, and registrars. Nearly all of the works displayed in the show have been given or promised to the Walters Art Museum by John and Berthe Ford. Exhibitions like these are made possible through the generous support of members and contributors to the annual fund.