Friday, September 12, 2008

Greco-Roman Influence in Buddhist Sculpture

This is my favorite image in our new edition of A Global Pursuit.

The influence of Greco-Roman art is still present in western art. What examples of Greco-Roman influence can you think of in the art of other parts of the world? And why do you think the influence is still so strong in western appreciation of art?

DID YOU KNOW that Alexander the Great conquered lands in central Asia that bordered northern India in 327 BCE? He was trying to wipe out all traces of the Persian Empire. During the time of the Roman Empire (flourished 27 BCE–c453 CE), these lands became Roman colonies that sat on the western end of the “Silk Road” to China. An early Indian dynasty, the Kushan (flourished c50–320 CE) of northern India, traded with the Roman colonies and thus was transmitted the Roman version of the classical sculptural style. The historical dates for the Buddha are c563–483 BCE. The very first images of the Buddha were produced during the second century CE, and they show strong influences of classical sculpture, presumably based on images of Apollo.

Connections Across Curriculum – The Greco-Roman influence shows students that no culture exists in a vacuum. Art and culture that is passed down through the “Western Tradition” made its way east as well. Eastern technology that traveled along the Silk Road had a major impact on western history in the form of printing methods, navigation technology, and gun powder.

For more info on early Indian Buddhist art go to

Click here to see other examples of Indian Buddhas.


  1. I enjoyed seeing the different types of Buddha's. I have really been exposed to one main image. I teach a lot of Indian students at my school. Can you reccommend any other types of Indian art or artists that I should look into?

  2. There are many fabulous periods in the history of Indian art. I have several favorite periods, including the Kushan mentioned above. The Gupta Dynasty succeeded the Kushan. They flourished between 320 and 600 CE, and the Greco-Roman influence of Kushan art can be seen in Gupta sculpture. Another thrilling period is the Chola Dynasty in southern India (907-1053 CE)which is known particularly for stunning developments in architecture. By far my favorite period is the Mogul (or Mughal) Dynasty in northern India (flourished 1526-1756). It was an Islamic Mongolian family, and they initiated a Renaissance in Indian art. It is the period of the building of the Taj Mahal, but equally impressive was the accomplishments in painting, especially book illustration. The Mogul rulers imported artists from Persia(Iran) to enrich their court. To see fabulous examples of Indian painting choose "Islamic: India" under country/culture on the Davis Art Images website. KC


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