Osmund Bopearachchi is one of the finest art historians active today, and has been particularly interested in the study of coins in the ancient world. Over a period of years from 2012-2017 he turned to the study of the Buddhist art of Gandhāra, and particularly the Hellenistic influence on Buddhist art in the Gandhāran area, in what is today NW Pakistan.
In this lecture, which is the first of two he gave at the Asian Art Museum, is divided into two parts, he discusses and shows examples of familiar Greek figures that surprisingly turn up in Buddhist art works of the early Gandhāran period. These include Heracles and Dionysus, amongst others. Next week we will see how Gandhāran art influenced Central Asia and China.
The Gandhāran period was a high point in Buddhist art, and the remarkable reliefs and sculptures produced at this time, and in this area, are now classics of Buddhist art. Bopearachchi shows many of these, as well as many coins produced at the time, and shows how elements of Buddhist art often had Hellenistic figures and styles, but within Indian and Buddhist stories.
This is not a new idea, of course, but the wealth of detail that Bopearachchi is able to produce to illustrate the thesis is impressive, and we can deepen our understanding of this art period by listening to his expert analysis.
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