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Hellenistic Court Imagery in the Early Buddhist Art of Gandhara

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[Abstract The focus of the paper is on the relationship between Gandharan artistic culture and the presence of a Hellenistic court milieu during the 1st cent. before and after CE in the territories of Ancient Uḍḍīyāna. What emerges from new literary and archaeological evidences are significant interactions between artistic production and the evergetism made by the princes of Apraca and Oḍi: many evidences demonstrate the substantial involvement as donors of these local dynasties in the construction of the sacred landscape. What influence did these local dynasties have in the structuring of religious communication? How was this local power and his Hellenistic background reflected in the images and complex decorative Buddhist monuments? In order to understand the dynamics between power and religious communication in the sacred space of Early Gandharan society not only some well-known iconographic themes are now interpreted as self-representations of an aristocratic habitus, but also the presence of a ‘beholder in the image’ is detected as powerful visual strategy to stage the religious experience as a suggestive ritual performance., Abstract The focus of the paper is on the relationship between Gandharan artistic culture and the presence of a Hellenistic court milieu during the 1st cent. before and after CE in the territories of Ancient Uḍḍīyāna. What emerges from new literary and archaeological evidences are significant interactions between artistic production and the evergetism made by the princes of Apraca and Oḍi: many evidences demonstrate the substantial involvement as donors of these local dynasties in the construction of the sacred landscape. What influence did these local dynasties have in the structuring of religious communication? How was this local power and his Hellenistic background reflected in the images and complex decorative Buddhist monuments? In order to understand the dynamics between power and religious communication in the sacred space of Early Gandharan society not only some well-known iconographic themes are now interpreted as self-representations of an aristocratic habitus, but also the presence of a ‘beholder in the image’ is detected as powerful visual strategy to stage the religious experience as a suggestive ritual performance.]

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