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Athenaeum of Philadelphia | Storied Stone

June 7, 2022 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

A behind-the-scenes history of the sixteenth-century South Indian temple hall installation in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

About this event

Storied Stone weaves together memories and scholarship to illuminate the multilayered history of the sole example of historical Indian stone temple architecture publicly displayed outside the subcontinent. While visiting Madurai, Tamil Nadu, in 1913, the Philadelphian Adeline Pepper Gibson purchased more than 60 huge granite carvings. Given in 1919 to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, these architectural elements were arranged to form a temple hall (mandapam) in the museum’s original building in 1920. The installation was reconfigured in 1940 in the museum’s current building and reimagined in 2016. The tale that unfolds—part detective story, part museum history, part case study—explores a century of debate about exhibition, authenticity, and interpretation within the museum, brought to life by striking new photography and never-before-published archival images. Offering fresh insights into the original context and meaning of the carvings, this volume also highlights the complexities of presenting the work in, and for, the twenty-first century.

Darielle Mason has been The Stella Kramrisch Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art and Head of the Department of South Asian Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1996 and is Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She was lead curator on the 2016 transformation of Philadelphia’s South Asian galleries and consulting curator on the 2020 reconceptualization of Seattle’s Asian Art Museum. Along with over fifty smaller shows, major exhibitions include “Gods, Guardians, and Lovers: Temple Sculpture from Northern India, A.D. 700-1200” (organized for the Asia Society Museum, NY, 1993) and, for Philadelphia, “Intimate Worlds: Indian Paintings from the Alvin O. Bellak Collection” (2001), “Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal” (2009, winner of the Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award from the College Art Association), and “Phulkari: The Embroidered Textiles of Punjab” (2017).


Mason holds a BA from Williams College and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on the temples of western India where she spent a number of years conducting field work. Before returning to Philadelphia, she was assistant curator for South and Southeast Asian, Himalayan, and Islamic art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her publications span millennia and include work on sculpture, architecture, textiles, contemporary art, and museums. For this talk she will draw from her just published monograph Storied Stone: Reframing the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s South Indian Temple Hall (Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Press) which weaves together cultures and continents as it explores a hundred years in the life of the only publicly-displayed ensemble of historic Indian stone temple architecture outside of the subcontinent.