Introduction by Jan Van Alphen
ESSAY: Cast for Eternity: Essay by Marcel Nies
|The selection of bronze sacred images in the exhibition Cast for Eternity represents an important reflection of the cultural heritage of India, Sri Lanka, the Himalayas, and China (via Tibet), countries and regions which have occupied their own significant places in the art history of the world for over 2000 years. The sensuality, spirituality and beauty of these images are emphasized by the highly technical development and skilful exploitation of bronze casting techniques. As if they have been created for eternity, the bronzes radiate a sense of immortality and reflect the fascination and mystery of the ancient cultures of Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.|
Antwerp, Belgium. Apr 12, 2005 To Jun 26, 2005
That metalworking was practiced in ancient India is clear: the Vedas, (from the Sanskrit vid: to know) which consist of four collections of hymns to the gods and date from around 1500 to 600 BCE, glorify the heavenly smith, Tvashta. There are references to metalworking: gold, silver, lead, and tin are mentioned in the Yajur Veda, while the older Rig Veda speaks of gold, copper, and bronze. In the addenda to the Vedas, more specifically in the Brahmanas (c. sixth to fifth century BCE), are eulogies to craftsmen and artists, including metal workers.
From Human Gods
and Godlike Humans
The contribution of the Newar metal sculptors of the Kathmandu valley to the Himalayan art traditions has been long-lasting and profound. For centuries these artists have been the acknowledged masters of their trade, and even today they create many of the images used in worship by Buddhist communities throughout the world. From the earliest metal sculptures we know until the present time, Nepalese metal sculpture has continued without a break in the Newar heartland of the Kathmandu valley. The patrons were likely to be either royal or members of the richer elements of the diverse and energetic Newar society.
From Metal Image-casting
The subject matter of almost every Tibetan sculpture is of a religious nature and predominantly Buddhist. The pre-Buddhist Bön religion has always had a presence in Tibet, but sculpture depicting their pantheon is comparatively uncommon. Secular sculpture is virtually unknown save for massive ninth-century stone lions marking royal tombs. The early Tibetan Buddhist kings are themselves deified, with their portraits enshrined alongside Buddhas, bodhisattvas and protector deities. It was Buddhism that prevailed in Tibet from the turn of the eleventh century and there was no call for secular art. Buddhist symbolism is everywhere and Buddhist statues abound, from private altars in town houses to devotional images in the tents of nomadic yak herders, to the ranks of bronzes in temple collections.
From Tibetan Sculpture
Cast for Eternity: Essay by Marcel Nies
INTRODUCTION: Introduction by Jan Van Alphen
all text & images © 2005 The authors, the photographers and the Ethnographic Museum, Antwerp