Julie Bellemare. Hariti Domesticated: Re-evaluating Structures of Patronage in Gandharan Art
Strategically located on pan-Asian trade networks in modern-day northwestern Pakistan and Afghanistan, the region named Gandhara was of tremendous economic importance in the early centuries of the Common Era, a locus of exchange between cultures, both in terms of trade and ideas. Over the centuries, it was successively occupied by Achaemenid, Mauryan, Greco-Bactrian, Scythian, Parthian and finally, Kushan rulers, with each of these foreign dynasties leaving imprints of their visual culture and belief systems. The art produced in Gandhara has been a focus of Western scholarly attention since the first excavations began in the region in the 19th century. Early discourse on the subject is infused with imperialist ideology, with scholars such as James Fergusson (1808–86) and Alfred Foucher (1865–1952) tracing the region’s innovations—particularly, the vexed question of the appearance of an anthropomorphic image of the Buddha—to Hellenistic or Roman influences, revealing biases against the possibility of Indian originality.