Virtual Visit: Belief
Text and Images Courtesy of Phoenix Art Museum

Above: Unknown, Krishna and Radha under umbrella (Krishna y Radha debajo de una sombrilla), 19th century. Ink and color on paper. Gift of Mr. George P. Bickford.

In a world of more than 7 billion people, innumerable beliefs define our creeds, our identities, and our cultures. For the billions of us who have lived throughout history, we’ve learned that religious belief has the power to transform entire nations, to unite and divide, to conquer and to heal. While our differences in beliefs can at times polarize us, faith traditions have also influenced and inspired the creation of some of the most compelling works of art in our collective history.

For this week’s virtual visit, we explore works in the PhxArt collection inspired by some of the major faith traditions in the world, from Christianity to Islam, Hinduism to Judaism, and so much more. Join us to discover the ways belief can come to life in a range of media, take a deep look at the Museum’s collection and past exhibitions, and enjoy belief-inspired playlists, reading lists, and more.

Above, top left:  Unknown, Buddhist pocket shrine (Santuario budista de bolsillo), 19th century. Lacquered wood. Estate of Carolann Smurthwaite. Top right:  Unknown, Plate with multicolor patterns (Plato con motivos multicolores), c. 1620. Painted and glazed ceramic. Gift of James and Ana Melikian. Bottom left:  Unknown, Figurine representing a Daoist deity wearing armor (Figurilla que representa una deidad taoísta con armadura), Ming to Qing dynasty, 17th century. Bronze. Museum purchase, Robert H. Clague collection. Bottom right: Marcellus Coffermans, The Crucifixion (La crucifixión), c. 1560-1575. Oil on oak panel. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Read Mullan.

Looking Back: Sacred Word and Image: Five World Religions

In 2012, Phoenix Art Museum featured the exhibition Sacred Word and Image: Five World Religions. Featuring objects drawn from the extraordinary private collection of James and Ana Melikian, the exhibition featured rare books, paintings, and other ephemera from some of the world’s largest religions, namely Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. The sacred objects included those crafted from a variety of traditional and nontraditional materials, including paper, palm leaf, vellum, wood, lacquer, metal, and ivory. Featured works included a rare Tanakh, also known as the Jewish Bible or the Old Testament, translated into Ladino, the language of Sephardic Jews that is an amalgamation of Spanish and Hebrew; a gilded 18th-century Chinese Quran, the holy book of the Islamic tradition; and an exquisite silver-bound book containing the four Gospels translated into Armenian.

Above left: Unknown, Ghalam-kar prayer mat, late 19th-early 20th century. Block printed cotton. Gift of Jacqueline Butler-Diaz in honor of collector William W. Sage. Right: Unknown, First bible printed in Yiddish, 1678. Lent by James and Ana Melikian. Photo by Ken Howie.