Vidya Dehejia

Vidya Dehejia

South Asian Art
Ph.D., Cambridge University, 1967

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In the course of her career, Vidya Dehejia has combined research with teaching and exhibition-related activities around the world. Extensive field travel in South Asia, with visits to sites of importance in Southeast Asia, has given her first hand familiarity with the art of the region. Her background in classical Sanskrit and Tamil, and knowledge of a range of modern Indian languages has proved invaluable. Her writings have incorporated translations of ancient poetry, and material from unpublished manuscripts, in order to illuminate an artistic milieu. She has explored at length the theoretical basis for the portrayal of visual narratives in the context of India's sculpture and painting, and has examined issues of gender and colonialism. Over time, her work has ranged from Buddhist art of the centuries BC to the esoteric temples of North India, and from the sacred bronzes of the South to the art of British India. Management and curatorial experience at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries provided broader scope to convey the excitement of her field to non-specialist audiences.

Recent Mellon Lecture Series

The Thief Who Stole My Heart: The Material Life of Chola Bronzes from South India, c. 855–1280
Sixty-Fifth A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts

In this six-part lecture series entitled The Thief Who Stole My Heart: The Material Life of Chola Bronzes from South India, c. 855–1280, art historian Vidya Dehejia discusses the work of artists of Chola India who created exceptional bronzes of the god Shiva, invoked as "Thief Who Stole My Heart."
She asks questions of this body of material that have never been asked before, concerning the source of wealth that enabled the creation of bronzes, the origin of copper not available locally, the role of women patrons, the strategic position of the Chola empire at the center of a flourishing ocean trade route between Aden and China, and the manner in which the Cholas covered the walls of their temples with thousands of inscriptions, converting them into public records offices. These sensuous portrayals of the divine gain their full meaning with critical study of information captured through a variety of lenses.

Part 1Gods on Parade: Sacred Forms of Copper 
Part 2Shiva as "Victor of Three Forts": Battling for Empire, 855–955 
Part 3Portrait of a Queen: Patronage of Dancing Shiva, c. 941–1002 
Part 4An Eleventh-Century Master Sculptor: Ten Thousand Pearls Adorn a Bronze 
Part 5Chola Obsession with Sri Lanka and the Silk Route of the Sea in the 11th and 12th Centuries 
Part 6Worship in Uncertain Times: The Secret Burial of Bronzes in 1310

A book based on the lecture series will be forthcoming from Princeton University Press.

Selected Publications

Vidya Dehejia & Peter Rockwell, The Unfinished: Stone Carvers at Work on the Indian Subcontinent, New Delhi: Roli Books, 2015

The Body Adorned: Dissolving Boundaries between Sacred and Profane in India's Art, New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

Delight in Design: Indian Silver for the Raj, Ahmedabad: Mapin Publications, 2008. 

Chola. Sacred Bronzes of Southern India. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2006. Catalogue essay "Beauty and the Body of God," and all Catalogue entries.

The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India, New York: The American Federation of Arts, 2002.

India through the Lens: Photography 1840–1911, Washington D.C., Ahmedabad, Cologne: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Mapin Publishing, Prestel Verlag, 2000.

Devi, The Great Goddess: Female Divinity in South Asian Art, Washington D.C., Ahmedabad, Cologne: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Mapin Publishing, Prestel Verlag, 1999.

Love in Asian Art and Culture (Asian Art and Culture Unnumbered), Sackler Art Gallery, 1999.

Indian Art. Art and Ideas, London: Phaidon, 1997, 1998, 2000. French, German, and Japanese versions forthcoming.