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Europe and became the well-known legend of St Hubert, the huntsman who chased a stag which turned to show him a crucifix planted between its antlers. In the Indian story it is a certain king, fanatically enamoured of the chase, who pursues a deer headlong, leaving his courtiers behind him, till he falls into a pit full of water which he had not noticed in his haste. The deer takes pity on him and pulls him out, and so transforms his nature. The freshness and animation of this scene, with its thickets of green so admirably suggested, and the many moving figures, remind one of Pisanello. But the all-embracing tenderness of Buddhism, its recognition of the dignity and patience and beauty of the life outside humanity, gives to these scenes an atmosphere very different from that of any mere hunting-scene. The deer itself is the being who was afterwards to be born as the Buddha.
Another story is of the great white elephant, also an incarnation of the Buddha. Owing to a spite conceived in a former existence, a young queen determined to rob this king of elephants of his tusks, and sent a hunter to procure them. The hunter after surmounting incredible obstacles found his victim, but was unable to saw off the tusks himself. The elephant then took the saw in his trunk and cut them off himself, knowing why and for whom the thing was done. The prize was brought home to the queen; but she, at last perceiving her own littleness of soul and the Buddha's magnanimity, turned away from the sacrifice and allowed herself to die. The group of the dying queen surrounded by her attendants is one of the most beautifully conceived in this whole series of frescoes, or indeed in the whole of Indian art. And the drawing of the elephants in the scenes of this story is masterly.
The characteristic spirit of compassion flowing out for all living creatures, which gives a singular gentleness to all these scenes, a gentleness felt even in the drawing of the figures—this spirit finds its culmination in a superhuman figure which is the supreme expression of the art of Ajanta. No one certainly knows whom this figure is intended to represent; whether Gautama renouncing the world, or (more likely perhaps) the great Bodhisattva, the genius of compassion, Avalokitesvara, who is said to refuse salvation till the salvation of the whole world be accomplished. Of superhuman size, among a confused multitude of smaller shapes, and with a background of rocky ledge and tree, this great form stands out detached as a spirit looking down in pity on the world. If little known as yet, this figure will assuredly become famous among the great creations of art.
In these Ajanta frescoes we find an abounding and inexhaustible delight in life; in the beauty of form and movement in men and women and animals, in the freshness of leaves, in the earth and the sunshine. And yet in the midst of this joyous exuberance, the natural vigour and hope of youth, there is the capacity for profound sorrow and an exalted compassion. The secret of this art is a deep recognition of the spiritual element in man, conceived not as an essence apart, to be cloistered and protected from the material world, but as something pervading and refining all the actions and events in which men and women take part, and colouring with its own tinge even the unconscious life of nature.
These frescoes have the same kind of significance and promise for the art of Asia that the early Italian frescoes have for the art of Europe. If inferior in some aspects, especially in design, they are superior in one aspect; they are not so exclusively occupied with human figures, they admit refreshingly the world of animals and vegetation. Animals and birds are painted with more mastery because with more sympathy and insight. From a morning of such magnificent promise what might we not expect? But, alas! the story of Indian painting, so nobly begun, drops into centuries of total darkness. No doubt the practice of painting continued-it reappears again in the 16th and 17th centuries-no doubt there has been immense destruction; but for close on a thousand years, so far as anything is known at present, we have an astounding gap and silence.
We will return to the later phases of Indian painting. Meanwhile let us consider for a moment the sculpture, which is of immense variety and extent. The torso at South Kensington was found at Sanchi, the site of a famous stupa, and is said to have crowned one of the pillars erected by Asoka in the 3rd century B.C. Mr Vincent Smith is of opinion that it is correctly ascribed to the age of that Emperor; but Mr Havell is strong against so early a date, and would put it down to the 4th or 5th century A.D. However this may be, we do not often find in Indian sculpture forms of such purity and distinction.
The early Buddhist sculptures and reliefs of Sanchi and Bharhut, which are later by a century than the time of the Emperor Asoka, show already in a pronounced degree the Indian characteristics; the teeming multiplicity, as of luxuriant vegetation, the fullness and softness of the forms, the animation in detail, and the absence of relieving spaces. There is inventive floral ornament, and the animals are admirably treated. The technique is really that of the woodcarver, surviving into a time when wood had been supplanted by stone; but even to this day the practice of making statues in perishable materials-wood, clay, or mud-continues.
The same style, with its ornateness and love of filling every available space, is developed further in the sculptures of Amaravati in the south, which date from the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. This monument, like others in India, has suffered greatly from the demolitions of local builders in want of stone. The remnants which have been saved are preserved in the Madras Museum and in the British Museum, where they are seen by every visitor who mounts the main staircase. Accord ing to Dr Coomaraswamy, these stone reliefs were originally covered with painted plaster. In any case, we cannot well judge of the effect intended without the architectural setting and the congenial glow of Indian sun. In their own type of richly crowded design these reliefs show extraordinary invention. Fergusson thought them the crowning achievement of Indian sculpture; but few would now agree with this judgment. Much has been discovered since Fergusson wrote ; and
2 it is noteworthy that, while he remarked on the almost total absence of sculpture in Ceylon,' the efforts of the Archæological Survey have quite disproved this statement, and some of the finest classic sculpture is to be found in the island. Among these is one of the grandest of the great seated statues of Buddha, and the magnificent figure of Kapila, carved in the rock. The Kapila especially has a latent energy and a contained simplicity of contour which give it a place apart. It is thought to be contemporary with the latest and finest of the Ajanta frescoes, about the 7th century A.D. Of a like monumental quality, though very different in style, are the colossal statues at Konarak in Orissa, of horses and warriors, and of elephants. In these, however, which belong to the 13th century, a certain barbaric exuberance and tendency to break the outline are to be noticed ; the design and the sense of style are comparatively on an inferior plane, though their grandiose force gives them a place among the memorable sculptures of the world.
A properly equipped and adequately housed museum of Indian art would find room for casts of the most representative of such statues, and would give the student an opportunity of realising the achievements of Indian sculpture, in comparison with the sculpture of Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and the medieval art of Europe. Such a museum would also have casts of a selection of the reliefs at Borobodur in Java, where Indian Buddhist artists have lavished a wealth of skill in endless narrative sculptures of the Buddha legends, complementing the so different Buddhist sculpture of China and Japan. At present England offers little for study besides the fragments from Amaravati, except the collections of Gandhara sculpture, chiefly in the British Museum. And the Gandhara sculptures are not purely Indian. They represent the efforts of a pro
a vincial Hellenistic school in Bactria to express the ideals and portray the legends of Buddhism, and inevitably reflect the character of a hybrid art. They have been rather absurdly overpraised by writers of an archæological bent, prone to see wonders in anything connected with Greece. They are now vilified as extravagantly, in revenge, by Mr Havell and Dr Coomaraswamy.
The latter dismisses them as purely commercial art, of the same order with, but scarcely equal to, those of modern Catholic plaster saints. This is certainly to say too much; for many of the reliefs and statues are of considerable charm, and we see no reason why they should all be dubbed 'purely commercial! The makers of these images may have been full of genuine fervour, though hampered by an inherited convention which was not very appropriate to their themes. From the broad human point of view, the art of Gandhara, the meeting-place of Greece and India, is of singular interest. At the same time we must beware of regarding the sculpture as of any real importance in the history of Indian art.
Purely Indian sculpture provides a vast mass of material which has yet to be systematically and critically studied in detail. Mr Havell has written much about the spirit inspiring the artists; but for a connected historical survey the student must turn to Mr Vincent Smith's well illustrated volume, or to the lucidly condensed account given in Dr Coomaraswamy's Arts and Crafts of India and Ceylon. Undoubtedly from all this mass of work a very impressive selection could be made. But, taken in the mass, Indian sculpture is apt to leave a sense of dissatisfaction, fatigue, and sometimes repulsion. We are struck by the beauty of individual figures, by a charm of attitude, gesture, mood; but the relation between the figures is rarely felicitous. Again and again the relation seems accidental; the main forms follow haphazard lines in a variety of directions, creating a feeling of unease and incoherence. The interesting sculptures from Deogarh temple, Plates 34 and 35 in Mr Vincent Smith's History,' serve as an example. There is immense skill, there is inexhaustible invention; it is the instinct for organic design which is wanting.
Mr Havell and Dr Coomaraswamy insist greatly on the surpassing spiritual qualities of Indian sculpture. But, though we can admit the pervading concern with the things of the spirit and the desire to express them, the impression on the mind of the spectator is the essential test. We may discover the ideas inspiring the artists and then read these into their works, but it is the mood created by the sculptured images which should transport our spirits into the ideal world ; and confused, distracted design will not so transport us, it leaves us rather in agitation. The general impression left by the mass of Indian sculpture is of a tremendous, almost tormented desire to create something transcending human possibilities and inevitably failing in the attempt. The marvels that design can do by contrasts, by spacing, by great reserves, by isolation—these are left unstudied by an art which seems to find no effort