OF INDIA AND FARTHER INDIA
The art of casting in copper, bronze or brass, or much more rarely in precious metal, by the cire perdue process 1 has been practised in India for some five thousand years. The earliest examples, belonging to the Indus Valley (Harappa) culture and dating from the first part of the third millennium B.C., are already moving freely in three dimensions. If at a later period a majority of figures are frontally presented, this is not a primitive feature but arises from necessities of use and not from any disinclination on the part of the artist to attack the problems of space, which it would not have occurred to him to think of as interesting or valuable in themselves and apart from intended significance. How well the problem could be dealt with when required is very well illustrated in several of the exhibited examples, notably in the two Avalokiteśvara figures from Ceylon and Nepal, and even more conspicuously in the well-known type of the dancing Śiva (Naṭarāja) now represented in several American museums. It may be added that excellent images of this type are still being made.
A majority of Indian bronzes (we employ the term to include what may have been cast in such other materials as copper and brass whether with or without gilding) to be found in collections belong to the later cycle of Indian art ranging from the third century B.C. up to the present day, and even of these, few antedate the Gupta period ( fourth to sixth century A.D.). Of those in the present exhibit none can be dated before the seventh or eighth century, but as regards the "mediaeval" period the group may be described as stylistically representative and as made up of examples which are in nearly every case of the highest quality.
Just as in Europe, so in India the founder's art has been applied to the fabrication of all kinds of useful objects such as water-vessels, harness fittings, or jewelry, as well as to the production of "statuettes". But although there is no implied distinction of "Decorative" from "Fine" art, we are concerned in the present exhibition primarily and almost exclusively with icons, even the two examples of animal sculpture and one of a dancing nymph having been made with a symbolic or "mythological" significance and to be used in connection with a Hindu or Buddhist cult. It may be remarked that while the principal object of worship established in the main sanctum of a temple is usually, though not necessarily, of stone, metal images are made either to be set up in accessory chapels, or to be carried in procession, or, finally, to be employed in private devotions, and this accounts for their relatively small size, such colossal figures as the Sulṭānganj Buddha, cast over an earthen core, and now in Birmingham, being quite exceptional.
Inasmuch as in any case "The forms of icons are determined by the relation which exists between the worshipper and the object of worship" (Śukrâcārya), it will be