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NYC – Metropolitan Museum of Art – Seated Jain Tirthankara
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Image by wallyg
Seated Jain Tirthankara
India (Gujarat or Rajasthan).
Solanki period, 11th century.
White marble.

This superb white marble sculpture represents one of the twenty-four tirthankaras ("crossers of the ford") or jinas ("victorious ones", i.e., conquerors of desire) of the Jain religion. Tirthankaras, who were not deities but mortals whose ascetic lives set an example for worshippers hoping to attain release from the cycles of existence.

Like Buddha, Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, practiced meditation in the yogic tradition and sought release from the suffering and pain of earthly existence by the denial of desires. There is very little physical difference between representations of seated Buddhas and Jain saints (tirthankaras) in Indian art. They both appear in the yogic lotus position and both display markings appropriate for enlightened beings: the serene face; the ushnisha; the elongated earlobes, which symbolize princely jewelry once worn but now abandoned; and the symbolically perfect body held up and filled with prana. The auspicious srivatsa mark on the chest, and the lack of an urna indicate that this figure is a Jain "saint," or tirthankara (Crosser of the Ford or Conqueror of Desire)..

Representations of Jain figures follow a very conservative iconographic and artistic tradition. Since the inactive, almost nude figure with passive expression does not lend itself to dramatic sculptural interpretation, the burden of aesthetic success rests on the skillful and sensitive rendition and manipulation of simple forms into a well-proportioned, visually pleasing sculptural unity. The focus of worship in a Jain temple was an image of a tirthankara like this one, which probably was placed in the temples inner sanctum. Numerous smaller surrounding shrines would have contained other tirthankara images.

Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift, 1992 (1992.131)

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s permanent collection contains more than two million works of art from around the world. It opened its doors on February 20, 1872, housed in a building located at 681 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Under their guidance of John Taylor Johnston and George Palmer Putnam, the Met’s holdings, initially consisting of a Roman stone sarcophagus and 174 mostly European paintings, quickly outgrew the available space. In 1873, occasioned by the Met’s purchase of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot antiquities, the museum decamped from Fifth Avenue and took up residence at the Douglas Mansion on West 14th Street. However, these new accommodations were temporary; after negotiations with the city of New York, the Met acquired land on the east side of Central Park, where it built its permanent home, a red-brick Gothic Revival stone "mausoleum" designed by American architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mold. As of 2006, the Met measures almost a quarter mile long and occupies more than two million square feet, more than 20 times the size of the original 1880 building.

In 2007, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was ranked #17 on the AIA 150 America’s Favorite Architecture list.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1967. The interior was designated in 1977.

National Historic Register #86003556

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