India, Begram, Kushan Period / Ladies Entertained by Dancers / 1st-2nd CenturyIndia, Begram, Kushan Period
Ladies Entertained by Dancers
1st-2nd Century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: India
Creator Active Place: India
Creator Name-CRT: India, Begram, Kushan Period
Title: Ladies Entertained by Dancers
Title Type: Primary
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1
Creation End Date: 199
Creation Date: 1st-2nd Century
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ivory
Materials and Techniques: ivory
Dimensions: Overall: 7.5cm x 17cm
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1985.103
Credit Line: Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund
Style or Period: Kushan Period
Context: Ivory is a more perishable material than stone, bronze, or even terracotta, yet it was one of the more popular media used in India without interruption from ancient times to the present. It was not until 1937 and the discovery of the Begram treasure by Joseph Hackin that we gained substantial knowledge concerning ancient Indian ivories. Begram, ancient Kapisa, some forty-five miles north of Kabul on the banks of the Panjshir River, is surrounded by the massif of the Hindu Kush. This scenic city was a royal seat of the Indo-Greek kings as early as the second century BC, and later became the summer capital of the Kushana kings. The ruins of the palace, dating to the Kushana period, revealed a treasure trove of numerous artifacts sealed in several chambers, possibly hidden there from invaders. Among various other objects, a large number of ivories of Kushana workmanship were found. Ever since Hackin's discovery of them and their extensive publication, the dating and origin of Begram ivories has become a subject of scholarly dispute. Most of the ivories are, like this one (and three other fragments in the collection), filigree panels depicting figures, usually voluptuous elegant ladies of the court performing various functions. Most likely these ivories were meant to embellish furniture such as low stools, small tables, chests, and boxes--items often represented on the ivories themselves. Devices such as the intertwining of elements or overlapping of figures through touching hands or embraces were used to form unified filigree panels. Some of them still retain occasional metal pins by which they were attached to furniture. The Begram ivories, one of the few categories of secular art, frequently show scenes of courtly life that reflect contemporary lifestyles and fashions. This panel, flanked on the sides by ladies seated on low stools in relaxed poses and three female dancers in the center, shows what must have been favorite pastimes of courtly beauties: dancing, listening to music, and drinking. On the interior side of the seated figures are high stands in the shape of an hourglass or modern Indian low wicker seats known as murha. They may have served as flower stands because remains of foliage are visible above them. At the extreme right of the panel stands a tree next to the seated figure. The bare-breasted ladies are clad in transparent skirts, have elaborate hairdos, and are adorned with rich ornaments. The base of the panel is decorated with rosettes, which are frequently found on the bases of Gandharan images. Traces of red lacquer suggest that they were enhanced with lacquer inlay. The plaque has been published along with other similar plaques believed to be part of the same ivory throne. The Begram ivories have been variously dated from as early asthe first centuryBC to as late as the third to fourth centuries AD. While obviously the scope of the entry for this publication does not allow a more involved discussion of this complex problem, the ivory figurine found in Pompeii that is related in styleto the Begram ivories provides the terminus date as the year AD 79 (or the eruption of Mount Vesuvius), and in view of the Begram ivories' close similarities to Kushana sculpture in general, they can be dated to the first to second centuries AD. S.C.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1985.103
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, The Cleveland Museum of Art

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