- THE COLLECTION
- THE SPIRIT OF THE GALLERY
If there exists an original art amongst all, it would have to be the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara. Born of the union between Greek and Indian cultures on Indian soil and in service to the Buddhist religion between the 1st and the 5th century AD, this art developed in a geographic triangle which today corresponds to the part of Afghanistan situated to the North of the Kabul river, up to the valley of Peshawar in Pakistan.
Following the invasion of this region by Alexander the Great of Macedonia, the presence of Greek soldiers permitted a new interpretation of iconographic elements drawn by the presence of a new religious repertoire, which were skillfully combined with sculptural techniques imported from Greece. In AD 327 the apostle Thomas, while traveling towards India, discovered that the easternmost part of the Old World, though still influenced by classic aesthetic criteria, for the first time began representing Buddha in human form: with a youthful Apollo-like face, dressed in garments resembling those seen on Imperial Greek and later Roman statues.
This constituted a tremendous revolution resulting in the creation of a realistic art of great quality, bound to the techniques of Greco-Roman sculpture. These statues were made of both characteristic local grey shale with inserts of mica or in the rare green phyllite, and later in stucco from the 3rd century AD. Traditionally gilded and painted with lots of red, this material was less expensive and, being easier to work with, could be duplicated more quickly.
This Gandharan Golden Age is contemporary to the Buddhist kings of the Kushan dynasty when Buddhism spread towards China thanks to numerous pilgrimages.
Unfortunately, the invasion of the Huns in AD 450 followed by that of the Sassanids aided by the Turks, put Gandhara back under Persian suzerainty in AD 568, thus signalling the end of this exciting period.
In this section, you will also find several masterpieces pertaining to the Indian culture, with its strong sense of design, as well as its luxurious iconography dedicated among others to the fabulous story of the Hindu gods. The origins of Indian art dates back to the 3rd Mill. BC with the stunning civilizations of the Indus Valley of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, and spreads onto a huge and diversified continent where not only Buddhism and then Hinduism, but also Jainism and at the end Islam played their influence. We have a predilection for the stone carving art created from the time of the Middle kingdoms until Late Medieval India (AD 600 until 1300) and admire the many temples of the Dravidian architecture, the Pallava, Chola and Hoysala sculpture, the Chandela and their Khajuraho group of monuments. The expression of an overjoyed sensuality and sometimes quite submerging sexuality mixed with a skilful technique makes this period a fascinating chapter in human history.