Identifying Several Visual Types in Gandhāran Buddha Images

Identifying Several Visual Types in Gandhāran Buddha Images

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  Identifying Several Visual Types in Gandhāran Buddha Images  Juhyung RhiArchives of Asian Art, Volume 58, 2008, pp. 43-85 (Article)Published by Duke University Press DOI:For additional information about this article Accessed 10 Aug 2017 13:17 GMT  Identifying Several Visual Types in Gandha¯ran Buddha Images juhyung rhi Seoul National University Visual Types H ow are we to define Gandha¯ran Buddha images invisual terms? Or how are they visually constituted?We can generally recognize and characterize them—fromtheir distinctive materials (e.g., particular stone types of schist or phyllite); their generic differences from imagescreated in neighboring areas of India proper; and theirapparent affinities, in varying degrees, to images fromthe Classical traditions of the Mediterranean and east-ward to the borders of Iran. Beyond these generalities,however, we remain astonishingly inarticulate, despitemore than a century of serious investigations into thesubject. This may be attributable partly to the extremepaucity of securely datable materials, which would allowus to lay the images out, as it were, in clusters of dotsalong a timeline. As is well known, out of thousands of extant images from Gandha¯ra, merely five carry inscribeddates. Even of those five, only one (year 89) is unequivo-cally datable in the Kanis˙ka era ( Fig. 35 ), whereas theCommon Era equivalents of three others, dated in theyears 318, 384, and 399, are still debated. 1 Our problemalso—and probably to a greater extent—stems from thedominant concerns that have formed major lines of re-search on visual problems in previous scholarship.From the very outset, many scholars in the field wereunderstandably preoccupied with identifying externalsources—Hellenistic or Roman, and later, Iranian—forthe Gandha¯ran art tradition, which may be deemed es-sentially derivative. 2 Although this approach did clarifyimportant aspects of this tradition, it had grave limita-tions: for in Gandha¯ran art, ‘‘influences’’ from the Westcame from multiple sources and at multiple moments,and these ‘‘influences’’ were continually mixed with pre-existing or other heterogeneous elements, and thus mostoften transformed into highly complex forms. Attemptsto identify specific external sources were thus limitedmostly to a small number of isolated examples, andscholars tended to note visual features identifiable withextraneous traditions already familiar to them; thosewho were conversant with Roman art (e.g., MortimerWheeler, Benjamin Rowland, and Alexander Soper) firstsaw Roman elements in Gandha¯ran objects, and thosewho were srcinally Iranian experts (e.g., Daniel Schlum-berger and Roman Ghirshman) were more inclined tofind Iranian elements. Beyond presenting a rough pic-ture, this approach largely failed to consider aspects po-tentially more significant, such as the internal groupingof images.Another prevalent approach was to create a chro-nology of images. Although this is indeed a valuablerudimentary step in constructing knowledge of any ma-terial culture, it has been significantly hampered by thedearth of dependable evidence from either inscriptionsor stratified excavations, and moreover, the chronologyof history in the region itself is a notoriously contro-versial subject. 3 Stratigraphic information has been ac-cumulated from excavations conducted with advancedtechniques since the second half of the twentieth cen-tury, but evidence that could be useful for understand-ing the chronology of Gandha¯ran art is still scarce. 4 Naı ¨ ve comparisons with parallels in the West were alsonot much help, because attempts to correlate the devel-opment of Gandha¯ran art with external artistic de-velopments cannot provide a sound chronology. Theseconditions cast doubt on the validity of any detailedchronology of Gandha¯ran images yet attempted. 5 A notable problem with the various chronologicalapproaches was that they commonly treated the Gan-dha¯ran tradition—or, more correctly, ‘‘traditions’’—asa single chronological continuum subject to a unilineardevelopmental scheme. 6 In the Greater Gandha¯ran re-gion, however, a number of regional units—such as thePeshawar valley, Swa¯t, Taxila, Ja¯la¯labad, and Ka¯pis ´ı¯ — flourished side by side, each producing visually distinc-tive images; again, within each unit diverse smaller unitsare discernible—smaller units which reflect individualsubregions or workshops, sectarian affiliations, eco-nomic capacity, or the taste of local patrons. In apply-ing a unilinear developmental scheme, such multifariousfactors, whose acknowledgement would have helped re-construct internal relationships among Gandha¯ran im-ages, were often ignored or even suppressed. 7 This paper attempts to clarify an aspect of the in-ternal configuration of Gandha¯ran art, with a focus onBuddha images. More specifically, it aims to identify  several visual types 8 among Buddha images in stonefrom the Peshawar valley. Regionally, the Peshawar val-ley, ‘‘Gandha¯ra proper’’ in a more restricted definition,was the central area in the Greater Gandha¯ra, and itwas in this area that the majority of larger-scale stonestatues, which are commonly equated with Gandha¯ranart, were produced. Among the statues, those that por-tray the Buddha were indisputably the most themati-cally significant as well as the most numerous, since thevisual tradition of Gandha¯ra essentially served Bud-dhism. 9 Although stucco was widely used, it was stonethat was most favored for image making in the Pesha-war valley. Ever since I began studying Gandha¯ran art,I have found it intriguing that certain visual types standout conspicuously among Buddha images. Remarkablein quality and dominant in quantity, these visual typeswere no doubt major constituents of the genre we callGandha¯ran Buddhas. I believe that their noteworthinessdid not entirely elude the attention of previous research-ers, who occasionally remarked in passing on some of those visual types. 10 But they have never been treatedin a comprehensive, systematic manner. Five of thesetypes, the most outstanding ones that I have noted, willbe discussed here. 11 I present each of these five types as a cluster of images comprising a small number of especially charac-teristic primary objects and a large number of relatedobjects. The primary objects in each group were mostprobably made in the same workshop or in a handfulof closely associated workshops and within a limitedtime. Most of the related objects are variations of pri-mary objects—imitations, adaptations, or derivations— produced over a more extended period, or parallel off-shoots that srcinated from a common source. Rare in- Fig . 1.  Buddha . Provenance unknown. H. 170 cm. PeshawarMuseum. Fig . 2. Detail of Fig. 1. 44  ARCHIVES OF ASIAN ART  stances could have been prototypes of the primary ob-jects. My conception of the visual type was influencedby ideas that George Kubler put forth in many of hiswritings, especially in  The Shape of Time  (1962). Thebinary terms I use here, ‘‘primary’’ and ‘‘related’’ ob-jects, are modelled on a pair of Kubler’s key concepts,‘‘prime object’’ and ‘‘replication,’’ but are modified con-siderably to suit my purpose. 12 I find it more practical todefine a prime object not as a thing in which an inno-vation first took place, but as one in which it becamemanifest and established. 13 The term ‘‘primary object’’in this paper is used in this modified sense. I have alsoavoided the use of Kubler’s term ‘‘replication,’’ becausethe temporal precedence of a thing over another cannotalways be ascertained either in reference to absolutetime scale or to relative formal sequence. The term ‘‘re-lated object’’ is used instead.The terms ‘‘primary’’ and ‘‘related’’ as I apply themto the five types are stated as a conceptual outlook under-lying this undertaking, and thus specimens in each typewill not be rigidly labelled as either ‘‘primary’’ or ‘‘re-lated’’ objects. The selection of primary objects for eachtype and the consequent clustering of each of the fivetypes are essentially based on my own cumulative visualexperience with extant Gandha¯ran Buddhas. While vi-sually registering affinities and differences, on the basisof intuition and visual analysis I realized that hair andfacial types were the most crucial elements. Encourag-ingly, typological distinctions based on these features co-incide with what we observe in the execution of drapery.I concede that the formulation of a type or types can varydepending on the identification of primary objects and Fig . 3.  Buddha . Provenance unknown. H. 135 cm. Lahore Mu-seum. From  The Route of Buddhist Art  , Nara, 1988, pl. 49. Fig . 4. Detail of Fig. 3.  JUHYUNG RHI   Identifying Several Visual Types in Gandha¯ran Buddha Images  45  the definition of the relationship between various groupsof primary and related objects. Thus, my five types areintended as flexible and loosely demarcated categories,which can well be modified or refined. And that is whyI designate my undertaking as ‘‘identification’’ ratherthan the more familiar term ‘‘classification.’’A visual type may be viewed as a small formal serieswithin the larger, imaginary series of Gandha¯ran art.Primary and related objects within a series are not sim-ply static dots distributed on a two-dimensional planebut active and dynamic participants in complex rela-tionships with one another. The five series or types,however, are presented here initially as synchronic units,without consideration of their chronological relation-ship. I suspect that the principal element enabling me todiscern each type was distinct visual consistency main-tained by closely related workshops or formed withinthe smaller regional units that constitute the Peshawarvalley. Differences in the srcin and duration of varioustypes will be noted where plausible and relevant. Thefive types are designated I to V, but these numerals donot connote either chronological ordering or qualitativehierarchy. Type I  A primary example of Type I is a standing statue inPeshawar Museum ( Figs. 1, 2 ). 14 This image is made of light gray schist and stands 1.7 meters high, the mostcommon size among Gandha¯ran Buddhas. It is charac-terized by a plump, round face and by distinctive fea-tures such as wide-open eyes with clearly marked irisesand pupils (shaped like narrow crescents), and by a con-spicuous mustache and a broad  us˙n˙ ı¯ s˙a  tied with a string.Interestingly enough, the top of the  us˙n˙ ı¯ s˙a  is flat andwas left uncarved except for a circular groove, whichseems to have been designed to accommodate an inser-tion. I have suggested elsewhere that the present  us˙n˙ ı¯ s˙a must have held an upper part currently missing, makingthe srcinal  us˙n˙ ı¯ s˙a  much higher than it is now. 15 Abovethe string, the hair is in S-shaped waves, and below thestring, framing the face, the hair is arranged in a series Fig . 5.  Buddha . Takht-i-Ba¯hı¯. H. 92 cm. British Museum.Courtesy British Museum. Fig . 6. Detail of Fig. 5. 46  ARCHIVES OF ASIAN ART
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