Silk Road Art and Archaeology, vol. 6: Papers in Honour of Francine Tissot.
This special issue of the journal Silk Road Art and Archaeology serves as a model Festschrift dedicated to the much esteemed scholar of Gandharan arts and culture, Francine Tissot. (1) The volume comprises twenty-two articles which, as a whole, can be characterized as exemplary products of careful research by scholars of the finest caliber. Their methodologies are in general unapologetically traditional and focused on examination and analysis of archaeological evidence. Art historians, archaeologists, numismatists, epigraphers, and philologists contributed papers that lead us toward a clearer understanding of the art and cultural history of Gandhara and its associated regions. While most of the topics concern issues in the art of Gandhara and Bactria (regions within modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan) from the first century B.C. to the third century A.D., some involve aspects of Buddhist iconography, Central Asian textiles, Kushan and Hun numismatics, Indian epigraphy, Buddhist art in early Medieval Gujarat, and more. Such diversity of topics at first glance may detract from the cohesion of the volume; however, when one reads the introductory note by Francine Tissot and reflects upon the nature of her own publications, a certain unity becomes apparent, in that the articles address three major concerns of Mme. Tissot: contextualizing works of art, identifying objects used in everyday life, and discerning interregional connections.
In her "Reflexions a propos de l'art du Gandhara," which opens the volume, Francine Tissot underscores the importance of knowing the original architectural context in which an object was placed and the archaeological context in which an object was found, in order to understand more accurately its meaning, function, and surrounding historical circumstances. Her own extensive work on the archaeological site of Sahri-Bahlol in Gandhara reflects this conviction. Marianne Yaldiz concurs in her excellent paper which discusses the enigmatic depictions of Buddhas with multiple emanations found in the art of Gandhara and Central Asia. She convincingly identifies the images in Cave 123 at Kizil as pratyekabuddhas, who have the power to multiply themselves and who also serve a protective function. Although she did not address the difficult and controversial question of the dating of Cave 123, her identification of what she calls the "Hinayanist Pratyekabuddha concept" at Kizil is an important contribution to our understanding of the art of these caves, which constitute the greatest collection of Hinayana, possibly Sarvastivadin, art in Central and East Asia.
In reading many of the papers we become keenly aware of the difficulties scholars face in researching the archaeological context from which even the most famous of objects were found. Saifur Rahman Dar's paper describes his painstaking efforts to learn the context in which the Gandharan sculptures housed in the Lahore Museum were discovered, by poring over all the records of the early curators and relevant British archaeologists. We learn with dismay that the site of Sikri, from which were unearthed some of the most remarkable and important pieces of Gandharan art such as the fasting Buddha and the stupa with narrative relief panels, cannot even be located with certainty. Furthermore, the early accession records are vague, confused, and incomplete; basic questions of provenance and date are unanswerable. All he can conclude from the sculptural evidence itself is that it is not accurate to speak of a single "Sikri school of art," for there are too many different strains, styles, and artistic traditions represented among the Sikri finds.
Although frustrations like those encountered by Dar are endemic to the field of Indian and Central Asian art history, careful inspection of early documentation nevertheless can lead to astonishing discoveries. In co-editor Elizabeth Errington's "... pursuit of phantoms from Gandhara's past, particularly the will-o'-the-wisp early archaeological records" (p. 191), she found an excavation photograph of the contents of the Shah-ji-ki-Dheri reliquary casket--the very reliquary utilized by scholars for decades to date types of Gandharan Buddha images to the reign of the Kushan emperor Kaniska. In that photograph is pictured a late issue of a coin of his successor, the emperor Huviska. (2) She concludes that "while the stupa must have been founded earlier--possibly, as legend suggests, by or in the time of Kaniska I--the famous reliquary recovered from the site is associated with a phase of rebuilding or enlargement of the stupa in the latter part of the reign of Huviska" (p. 197). The later date of the reliquary from Shah-ji-ki-Dheri has important ramifications for the vexed chronology of Gandharan art, and it supplies further evidence for the possibility that the reign of Huviska was a time of prosperity and expansion for Buddhism in Gandhara.
A number of scholars in this Festschrift contributed penetrating analyses of objects that would have been used in daily life. Martha Carter's paper examines a type of necklace that depicts a composite deity derived from Hellenistic, Iranian, and Indian prototypes, and she interprets its imagery as indicative of the promise for a happy afterlife. In her concise note on a previously unpublished silk bag with Sassanian ornamentation, Laure Feugere sheds light on the everyday life of travelers of the Central Asian Silk Road in the eighth century. Maurizio Taddei provides a new interpretation of sculpted stone steles that were found in Gandhara but made of limestone from Andhra Pradesh and carved with auspicious scenes in the South Indian style. Though previously considered religious votive offerings carried to Gandhara from Andhra by Buddhist pilgrims, Taddei argues that they were actually decorated querns, and the fine grain of the Andhra stone was considered particularly suitable for grinding delicate substances such as spices or pigments. The presence of luxury items from Andhra in Gandhara testifies to the existence of roads along which ideas, imagery, and motifs could have traveled as well. The economic links may help explain why aspects of Buddhism and Buddhist art of Gandhara are more similar to those of Andhra than of closer regions in India. Domenico Faccenna presents one aspect of his extensive work in Swat, namely, the categorization of types of turbans worn by figures in sculpted friezes that decorated the Main Stupa at Saidu Sharif. Using a method that was perfected by French scholars, Faccenna examines every detail of one motif, the turban. He seems to be quite certain in his dating of the sculptures from the second quarter to mid-first century A.D. If he is correct, they could be used to help date other sculptures to this art historically obscure time period, to which very few scholars have succeeded in attributing works of art. Remaining to be decided is exactly how unique these turban types are to this time period. What role do stylistic differences and regional proximity play? Questions such as these pertain to any study utilizing the method of motif analysis.
Many authors address issues of interregional connections, and ancient Gandhara and Afghanistan particularly lend themselves to studies of interactions with the Greco-Roman West, Iran, peninsular India, and ephemeral settlements of the Scythians of the Central Asian steppe. Klaus Karttunen takes a philologist's approach in identifying the Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides and his surrounding historical circumstances, though he does not involve Eucratides' impressive series of coins. Osmund Bopearachchi examines objects imported from the Hellenistic East to Begram in Afghanistan, including a previously unpublished statuette of Venus, and relates them to similar objects that were "Indianized" and produced locally. In the opinion of Bopearachchi, Hellenistic and Roman art played a significant role in the productions of local schools of art in the Paropamisadae. At the same time, Lolita Nehru cautions that the role of the Greeks is often overestimated by scholars. She cogently proposes that there was an indigenous local school of art in western Central Asia with its own interests in realism of a different kind from that of the idealistic realism of the classical West. This indigenous propensity for depicting realistic ethnic traits, Nehru argues, helps explain why the artists of ancient Bactria were particularly receptive to the foreign Greek style. She concludes that the vigor and realism discernible in the sculptures of Khalchayan and select examples from Ai Khanum are not necessarily indebted solely to Greek prototypes. Rather, they are derived from an indigenous local tradition fused with artistic ideals of the nomadic Scythians. She traces its most notable trait of "bold impressionistic treatment of ethnic realism" through thirteen centuries of artistic remains from the Oxus treasure, Ai Khanum, Takht-i Sangin, Khalchayan, and Adzhina Tepe, among others.
The Greco-Roman West is by no means the only important source of foreign influence on the art and culture of Gandhara and Bactria. Katsumi Tanabe underscores the importance of the cultural interactions with their immediate neighbor, Iran. Kushan religion incorporated many Iranian religious ideas and deities, and Tanabe argues persuasively that the origins of the popular Buddhist deity of prosperity, Vaisravana, can be traced in large part to the Iranian cult of Pharro. Most scholars who study the art of Gandhara are Indianists who also have a solid foundation in classical Western art history, but they are not usually fully versed in the language and art of Parthian Iran. It is becoming clear that further advances in our studies of this syncretic region require that all these sources be taken into consideration.
Other controversial, but intriguing, explorations of interregional connections are set forth by Deborah Klimburg-Salter and Haruko Tsuchiya. Klimburg-Salter draws attention to the probable prominence of Buddhism in Gujarat up to the tenth or eleventh century, significantly later than is generally allowed by most scholars. She suggests that upon its waning, the artists responsible for creating Buddhist painting and sculpture in western India migrated to the Himalayan foothills seeking patronage at temples such as that at Tabo (eleventh century). It is the Buddhist art of Gujarat dating to the seventh and eighth centuries that she equates with what the Tibetan historian Taranatha called the "Old Western Style." Whether or not the traces of Western Indian styles in eleventh-century Himalayan art need be linked with the late decline of Buddhism in the tenth or eleventh century in Gujarat should be further explored. Haruko Tsuchiya looks at the transmission of styles between regions that are much closer together than Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, namely Gandhara and Kapisi, in the region of Kabul. She identifies elements characteristic of the sculpture from the Kapisi area, such as flaming shoulders, abstraction and frontality, as being particularly "Kushan." Despite her complex discussion of lines of stylistic influence that sometimes involves uncertainties regarding chronological priorities, she draws much deserved attention to sites that are generally regarded as merely "provincial Gandhara."
This volume of Silk Road Art and Archaeology follows on the heels of another collection of papers, Coins, Art and Chronology: Essays on the Pre-Islamic History of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands. (3) Indeed, the same title would be suitable for this publication, as coins, art, and chronology all figure prominently; both books include the same number of papers, address the same types of issues, and include some of the same contributors. One is an excellent supplement to the other, and reading both in combination brings one up-to-date on the state of the field as it stands at the turn of this millennium. It is interesting to note from the point of view of historiography that in both books a discussion of the relationship between Gandhara and Mathura--which up until about five years ago had been the foremost topic of interregional connections during the Kushan Period--is conspicuously absent. The field seems to have shifted to studies of Gandhara's relations with Andhra Pradesh, Central India, Iran, and Central Asia.
As a whole, the research presented in this festschrift contains several noteworthy advances. The reign of Huviska (mid-second century A.D.) comes to the fore as the peak period of Buddhist expansion and prosperity in the Kushan realms; the previous scholarly emphasis placed on the period of Kaniska seems to be waning. In this volume there is unquestioned acceptance of the existence of the grandfather of Kaniska, the Kushan emperor Vima Takto, despite the controversy and disagreements of recent years. (4) Scholars now are paying more attention to identifying the distinctive features of smaller regions, rather than placing all sculptures from ancient Pakistan and Afghanistan under the rubric of "Gandharan" or "provincial Gandharan." In fact, recognizing the importance and self-sufficient identity of the so-called provincial Gandharan regions in Afghanistan leads to the realization that they supported discrete but interrelated schools of art in their own right. Many of the contributors also attempt to identify the subtle and complex strains of traditions represented in each of the regional schools, such as the Achaemenid Iranian, Parthian Iranian, Saka, Hellenistic, Roman, peninsular Indian, "Kushan," nomadic Scythian, and indigenous local traditions. While much work remains to be done in this endeavor, this volume communicates the profound complexity involved in identifying the many strains that combined to form the arts of each regional school in Bactria and Gandhara. After reading the articles, the notion that Buddhism suddenly declined in the fifth century in Gandhara and Afghanistan due to destructive raids by the Huns is no longer sustainable. Again, complex factors appear to have contributed to Buddhism's gradual eclipse, such as the role of natural disasters, or the pressures exerted by the Iranian Zoroastrians who had settled in the area and by Brahmanical Hindu sects which rose to political supremacy in the seventh and eighth centuries.
As many difficulties and caveats emerge from the papers as scholarly advances. It is more treacherous than ever to access archaeological sites in Pakistan and especially Afghanistan. The account given by Zemaryelai Tarzi of the frustrating circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Buddhist site of Nejrab recalls that it has never been easy to excavate and study the ancient arts and sites in Afghanistan, and now circumstances seem to be worse than ever. Madame Tissot in her introductory remarks laments the widespread destruction of sites and objects that has taken place in our recent history as well as the insidious fakes that continually appear on the market. Kushan chronology and the use of eras in Kushan inscriptions from Gandhara remain unsolved problems. Nomenclature is still somewhat inconsistent among the essays; for example, is Gandhara to be considered "India" or not? Can the term "Kushan style" be justified and adequately defined? The usefulness of coins in identifying the dates of sculptures and archaeological sites is adjudged to be extremely limited. Reconstructions, reuse, and restorations carried out at any given time from one generation after the original production of an object or monument up to modern times further problematize our studies. Literary accounts are rarely corroborated by archaeological evidence, and modern records are often imprecise and inconsistent at best.
Despite these difficulties, the contributing scholars have presented new theories based on rigorous examination of available evidence, and they have published previously unknown material in papers that warrant the perusal of any serious scholar in the field of South and Central Asian art history, numismatics, or early Buddhist studies. The handsome format and the clear photographs make the rich assemblage of scholarly papers a pleasure to read. The esteem her colleagues have for Francine Tissot is evidenced by their enthusiastic response to the call for papers for her festschrift, their addressing the major concerns in which she herself is especially interested, and their consistently high-quality scholarship.
1. The admiration and respect felt by the authors for Madame Tissot are palpable throughout the articles in the volume, since many include reverential as well as affectionate remarks. Martha Carter writes: "There is no scholar who deserves more praise for her copious and invaluable contributions to the study of Gandharan art" (p. 9). Zemaryalai Tarzi calls her "la plus grande specialiste du Gandhara" (p. 83), and Michael Alram refers to Mme. Tissot as "the outstanding scholar and charming Grande Dame of Gandharan art, to whom we owe so much for her work towards a greater understanding of Indian culture" (p. 129).
2. See also Elizabeth Errington, "Numismatic Evidence for Dating the 'Kaniska' Reliquary from Shah-ji-ki-Dheri," South Asian Archaeology 1999, Leiden (in press).
3. Coins, Art, and Chronology: Essays on the Pre-Islamic History of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands, ed. Michael Alram and Deborah E. Klimburg-Salter (Vienna, 1999).
4. See, e.g., B. N. Mukherjee, "The Great Kushana Testament," Indian Museum Bulletin, vol. 30, Calcutta 1995, esp. p. 25; and Gerard Fussman, "L'inscription de Rabatak et l'Origine de l'Ere Saka," Journal asiatique 286 (1998): 571-651, esp. 609 and 618-22.
SONYA RHIE QUINTANILLA
SAN DIEGO MUSEUM OF ART
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|Author:||Quintanilla, Sonya Rhie|
|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
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