Buddhist Sculpture at the V&A … Hellenic Influences in Ancient Gandhara

The Buddhist Sculpture gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum charts the rise of early Buddhism and its spread across Asia. In the earliest section, you can admire sculptures from the ancient Kingdom of Gandhara. The grace and realism of these depictions of Buddha show the enduring influence of ancient Greek art.

Seated Buddha, CE 200 - 400 Ancient Gandhara

Seated Buddha, CE 200 – 400 Ancient Gandhara

Gandhara was located in what is now Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. The kingdom came under Greek rule several times. The region was conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 BCE, was part of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom between 250 and 125 BCE and later the Indo-Greek Kingdom until 10 CE.

'The Great Departure of Buddha', CE 100 - 300, Ancient Gandhara

‘The Great Departure of Buddha’, CE 100 – 300, Ancient Gandhara

Gandhara reached its golden age under the Buddhist Kushan kings, who ruled between the 1st and 5th centuries CE. The Kushans originated in Xinjiang – the Central Asian province of modern day China. Gandhara had contact with China and Kushan rule was contemporary with the Chinese Han dynasty.

The large headless standing Buddha at the end of the gallery was carved in Tang dynasty China, 618-907 CE. The fabric folds and 3D shape show the influence of Indian sculpture.

Large headless standing Buddha, CE 618 - 907, Tang Dynasty, China

Large headless standing Buddha, CE 618 – 907, Tang Dynasty, China

This gallery shows how learning from other cultures is not a modern phenomenon. The movement of ideas, art and people between groups as distant as Greece and China was prevalent even in the ancient world.

For more information on Buddhist Sculpture at the V&A visit: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/buddhist-sculpture-v-and-a/

(All photographs are my own)

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This entry was posted in Art, Art History, Asia, Culture, History. Bookmark the permalink.

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