Domestic Devotion: Jain Wooden House Shrines in American Museum Collections
John E. Cort, Denison University
Gujarati Jain wooden house shrines (ghar derasars) are among the wonders of Indian sculpture, but have been little studied, and so are not very well known. Why, therefore, are there at least ten of them in American museum collections? Answering this puzzle led Cort to investigate the life and career of Lockwood de Forest (1850-1932). De Forest was the last of the Hudson River painters, and also a well-known Arts and Crafts designer in late-19th and early-20th century America. Much of his design work incorporated Gujarati wood carving, which he imported to the U.S. in collaboration with the Ahmedabad Wood Carving Company. De Forest’s interest in Gujarati wood carving also led to him arranging for some masterpieces of this craft to enter into American and British museum collections, which helped to spark an interest in Gujarati wood carving among American art collectors.
John E. Cort is Professor of Asian and Comparative Religions at Denison University, where he also teaches in the International Studies Program, and is the holder of the Judy Gentili Chair in International Studies. He is an expert on the Jains, and on the culture and history of western India. His research combines ethnographic fieldwork, literary study, and the study of art and material culture.
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