Sunday, 28 August 2011

Western Influences Art in the East

Another story from Dorothy King's PhDiva's blog


Western Influences Art in the East
I thought I'd post some images from Afghanistan and Pakistan which seem to be influenced by Greek and Roman art.

A Satyr from the Apsidal Temple at Sirkap now in Taxila Museum. The temple was sacked by the Kushan in AD 65, so we can confidently date the sculptures to the decades before this, and after the destruction of the city by an earthquake in AD 30 (photo):

Sirkap was founded by Demetrius I of Bactria, but flourished under the Parthians from c. 100 BC onwards. Although many of the sculptures show 'Greek' influence, much of that influence would have been indirect and through the Parthians - Taxila, on the opposite bank of was part of the Achaemenid empire after it's conquest by Darius. Apollonius of Tyana visited, and described it as a Greek style city (text), although when these sculptures were carved it was the capital of the Indo-Parthian kings.

A satyr is just a satyr, but a woman in a helmet wielding a spear is Athena. This figure now in the museum in Lahore is almost shocking as it looks as if it could have been imported from Rome - but the schist shows it was made in Ghandara in the 2nd century AD (photo):

This stucco head from Hadda in Kabul is often described as Mithras because of the bonnet, but this was also worn by the Dioscuri, who were regularly depicted in Central Asia (photo):

And have you ever wondered what a Roman personification of a river god might look like re-interpreted in circa AD 100 Pakistan? Well here's one now in Karachi museum ...

And this is what happens when you send marine figures to Gandhara .... (relief in British Museum);

One of the few early examples of Buddhist small arts to survive is this reliquary from Bimaran now in the British Museum. It was made in the first century to hold a bone of the Buddha, around which Stuppa 2 was constructed. What's interesting as it's a well date example of an early image of Buddha, and he is shown, as he was regularly in Gandhara sculpture, in an arcade.

This idea of showing figures in an arcade is familiar in Early Christian art, as on this sarcophagus in Arles:

The Christian sarcophagus post-dates the Buddhist reliquary, and copied earlier pagan Roman sculptures. The image of Christ, like that of the Buddha, has it's origins in earlier depictions. So these two palliatus-clad religious leaders ... (source)

Have their origins in earlier figures such as the Lateran Sophocles ...

And although it's too easy to see Greek or Roman influences on the heavily draped 'classical' Buddhas of Gandhara, this influence is more likely to have come through Parthian and Syrian figures such as this one from Ksar El Abiad in Syria.

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