Dr. Susan L. Beningson, Assistant Curator of Asian Art, Brooklyn Museum

Traditionally, jewelry in India has been worn and valued for both its ornamental and symbolic qualities. Replete with meaning, jewelry could reveal the wearer’s regional origins, beliefs, marital status, wealth, and social position communicating identity in both social and religious contexts.  The significance of the materials chosen extends beyond their beauty: gold was thought to have the power to purify those it touched, and gems the power to focus planetary influences, benefiting those who wore them.  Jewelry was not only intended to be worn in daily life, but also dedicated to deities and meant to convey the devotion of their worshipers. In Indian tradition, deities most often appear extensively bejeweled; religious practices have for millennia included the gift of gold and jewels to the gods.

Dr. Beningson is also a prominent collector of Indian jewelry.

Image: Pendant depicting the ten incarnations of Vishnu, Indian, early 18th century, Obverse: gold, yellow sapphire, diamond, emerald, ruby, and diamonds; reverse: gold and enamel. Otis Norcross Fund 39.764.

About the Instructor

Speaker: Dr. Susan L. Beningson
Speaker Bio: Dr. Beningson is Assistant Curator of Asian Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Her primary focus is the reinstallation of the permanent galleries of Chinese art. She previously taught Asian art history at the City University of New York, Rutgers University, and Columbia University. She is a well-published author on Asian art and has lectured widely. She received her doctorate in Chinese art from Columbia University, where her dissertation focused on Buddhist cave-temples at Dunhuang on the ancient Silk Road.