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A Rare Historical Fusion of Eastern and Western Art

September 4, 2010

 A Bodhisattva, gray schist, 2nd- 3rd Century

Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago

Gandharan art works include some of the rarest and most interesting pieces of sculpture that you can find in museums across the world.  Seek them out if you have the opportunity to view the actual works in person; you could go through a whole lifetime and never lay eyes on one.  This historical era and regional location, in present day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, represents an overlapping of Persian and Greek cultural and artistic influences.  The folds of the flowing robes in this statue speak to the Greek heritage of this work; the Buddhist subject matter of a Bodhisattva is Asian.  Buddhism was among central Asian peoples and even nomadic Central Asian peoples centuries before going east from India to China and eventually Japan.

Gandhara has the complex history of a kingdom with some large cities on a Silk Road route that had a population prior to the stone age, with migrations of people, variations in ethnicity and different conquests of empires over the centuries.  I particularly enjoy pieces from the 1st – 3rd Centuries and find that the skill in execution and design of these works to be amazingly beautiful and eloquent.

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