India, Bharut, Sunga Period / Section of a Coping Rail / 2nd Century BCIndia, Bharut, Sunga Period
Section of a Coping Rail
2nd Century BC

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Indian
Creator Dates/Places: India
Creator Active Place: India
Creator Name-CRT: India, Bharut, Sunga Period
Title: Section of a Coping Rail
Title Type: Primary
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: -19
Creation End Date: -10
Creation Date: 2nd Century BC
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Stone
Dimensions: Overall: 30.5cm x 122cm
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1972.366
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Severance A. Millikin
Style or Period: Sunga period
Context: The Indian sculptural tradition, which began during the Indus Valley period, continued to flourish under the patronage of the early historical dynasties and is closely associated with the development of Buddhism. The major Buddhist monument of the Shunga dynasty was the Bharhut stupa in Madhya Pradesh. Although it did not survive to our time, many sculptural fragments from Bharhut exist in different collections around the world, among which the Indian Museum in Calcutta is the leader. The Cleveland Museum of Art has two sculptures from Bharhut, this section of a stupa's coping rail and a crossbar decorated with a lotus medallion on each side. The winding lotus stalk divides the central portion of the coping into compartments that alternate everyday genre scenes with representation of jewels. The stalk symbolizes a wish-fulfilling creeper (kalpa-lata or kalpa-vrksa), and the jewels are the auspicious symbol of abundance and wealth. The necklace on the left is of particular interest and consists of a large bead with two side pendants. The plain center bead is flanked by two side pendants in the form of triratna (three-jewels), a very popular early Buddhist symbol. The second jewel, on the right, is a regular five-string bead necklace. The genre scenes, from left to right, show a man beside an architectural enclosure trying to catch a small animal climbing the lotus stalk. The second scene shows a man (sadhu or ascetic type, with an elaborate coiffure of matted hair) seated beside a wood hut. He attends a fire at an open hearth, surrounded by the baskets of chapati(s) (bread pancakes) that he is baking. It should be remembered that this early phase of Buddhism, frequently referred to as "anicomic," predates the representations of Buddha in anthropomorphic from and employs the language of various symbols and scenes based on daily life. The frieze below the center section of the coping is decorated with a row of bells suspended from crossed chains--a motif typical of Bharhut. The upper portion of the coping,now missing, was almost certainly decorated with a frieze of a step-merlon pattern alternating with a stylized palm tree--another standard motif on Bharhut copings. The style of sculpture is characteristic of Bharhut: a relatively deep relief, but on oneplane, without graduation in depth. The figures are charmingly naive, wear minimal clothing, and are adorned with heavy jewelry, turbans, or hairdos. Their gestures are somewhat angular yet successfully convey movement. It is obvious that the artist tookgreat delight in their portrayal. S.C.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1972.366
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, The Cleveland Museum of Art

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