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Faking it: The Problem of Forgeries in Gandharan Art and the Michael C. Carlos Museum Narrative Frieze

Srikureja, Karuna Kaur (2017)
Honors Thesis (74 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisers: Gough, Ellen M; Merrill, Linda
Committee Members: Robins, Gay
Research Fields: Art history; South Asian studies
Keywords: Gandhara; Forgery; Buddhist
Program: College Honors Program, Art History
Permanent url: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/s0ktv

Abstract

This thesis evaluates claims made about the authenticity of a Gandharan Narrative frieze at the Michael C. Carlos Museum by examining the iconography and material of the sculpture as well as the concerns raised by various scholars. I begin by discussing the sculpture in its own right, attempting to reconstruct a possible historical context and to place the work within the larger body of Gandharan sculpture. Then, by examining its iconography and physical condition, and by assessing the various claims made by scholars, I evaluate the evidence that both supports and refutes the allegations of forgery. In addressing these issues, I relate the Carlos Museum frieze to sculptures believed to be authentic, either because they were scientifically excavated or because they possess a clear provenance that dates back at least one hundred years. It was found that while the Carlos Museum Frieze can be identified as a depiction of the story of Nanda, the Buddha's youngest half-brother, in the presence of the Bodhisattva Vajrapani, the iconography and narrative details do not correspond exactly. This could be because the sculpture is fake or simply because it is a provincial style or a less exact example of the story. Similarly, the material of the sculpture and the state of the stone provide interesting pieces of evidence that have multiple interpretations that can either support or undermine allegations of forgery. While it is tempting to use this evidence to make a claim about the sculptures authenticity, my thesis instead aims to present a balanced presentation of the available evidence, and discusses the cultural implications of the phenomenon of fakes in Gandharan art. By placing contemporary interactions with both real and fake Gandharan art within the context of the history of scholarship, I show that the tastes of early colonial scholars and collectors has imbued these works with artistic and monetary value because of their relationship to Greco-Roman artistic traditions, and created a market for fake Gandharan sculpture.

Table of Contents

Introduction.....................................................................................................1

Buddhism in Gandhara.......................................................................................4

Michael C. Carlos Museum Friez.........................................................................10

Comparing the Carlos Frieze to Extant Gandharan Sculpture..................................13

Allegations of Forgery.......................................................................................17

Examining Scholarly Claims about the Narrative of the Carlos Frieze.......................21

Examining the Stone of the Carlos Museum Frieze................................................31

Buddhism and the West: Historical Narratives and the Reception of Buddhist Art......34

Conclusions.....................................................................................................43

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