The Berlin Museum of Asian Art
Readers may have guessed by now that my specialism lies in South and South East Asian art and consequently I felt as though I were in paradise when I visited the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin yesterday. It does not lie in the grand museum quarter, but rather sits amidst the sprawling university buildings of Dahlem; its unassuming, brutalist facade, masking the wonders that lie within.
I found myself most drawn to the early north Indian sculptures (between the 2nd and 6th centuries AD), as I found in them a vitality, poise and meditative profundity which gradually settled in later centuries, into a style more formulaic and less lively (until the Chola period in the south). I was quite simply amazed by the skill and mastery of those early artisans.
Unfortunately I was not able to procure many of the images, but here are a few of the highlights.
Standing Bodhisattva, Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century AD
When entering the galleries we are greeted with a wonderful array of sculptures from the Gandhara period (from modern day Pakistan). The style arose from an artistic fusion between the north Indian and Hellenistic styles following the military campaigns of Alexander the Great in the subcontinent. The sculpture produced during this epoch was extraordinary for its balance, sense of proportion and aesthetics, fluidity, dignity and grace.
Seated Buddha, Gandhara
The subtle nuances of light and shade created by the cartinary folds of the clothing and the shadow of the Buddha’s face cast onto the nimbus (halo) creates a greater sense of depth and three dimensionality. Though carved from stone, he appears so life-like and so utterly serene. His moon shaped face is beautifully framed by the circular nimbus behind his head.
Head, 13th century, Cambodia
Like many other Cambodian figurative sculptures of this period, there is a contagious smile lingering on the lips of this man (Buddha?). The smooth and stylistic moulding of the features is very distinctly Cambodian.
Ban Chiang ceramic pot, Thailand, 210 BC
This is one among many of the amazing pots in the museum; this example is over 2000 years old and in pristine condition!The collection here shows an imaginative approach to pottery which would not look out of place amongst works by contemporary designers.
Below: Head of a Mahapurusha, mottled red sandstone, Mathura, 2nd century AD
I love this mottled red sandstone, characteristic of a number of the sculptures displayed here from Mathura. This head portrays how gifted the craftsmen of this era were at imbuing their sculptures with a sense of liveliness.
This head of a Brahmin looks so Greek to me! He reminds me of Socrates.
Seven headed Avalokiteshwara, Tang Dynasty, 7th century
Wall painting from Kizil
Swimmers, Kizil Cave
Murals from Bezelik