Thursday, July 26, 2012


S u m m a r y.   China: Origins of Western sinophilia; Chinese exports and Chinoiserie; Western scholarship. Japan: The opening of Japan and japonisme in the West; attempts at an overall interpretation; scholarship. India: Early contacts and misinterpretations; aesthetic reassessment. Islamic Lands: Artistic contacts and perceptions; the turn towards scholarship; Islamic art research today. 

These four major civilizations have excelled in many fields of human endeavor, not least in art and architecture.  They all exhibit a profound sense of self-assurance, fostering cultural continuity and stability.  Moreover, the societies of China, Japan, India, and Islam, all of them literate, have left extensive deposits of written records.  This legacy is of enormous value to scholars willing to make the effort to master the evidence.

For Westerners the path to understanding has not always run smooth.   With regard to two countries, China and India, Western engagement began at two diametrically opposite poles.  

At the outset, the Middle Kingdom compelled an almost boundless admiration.  Resting on a foundation of faultless ethical principles (or so it was assumed), the Chinese empire stood out as the very model of an orderly and prosperous polity.

By contrast, India was for long regarded as a cesspool of corruption, iniquity, and superstition, fit only to be governed by outsiders.  India’s religious images elicited particular horror as “monstrous idols.”

In due course, as more information became available, both these exaggerated estimates were revised.  Although more remains to be learned, today both Chinese and Indian culture enjoy a well-deserved esteem that rests on their indisputable strengths. Following a more complex pattern, Western estimations of Japan and Islam have also varied, This chapter explores the main aspects of this reception. 1


With the possible exception of pharaonic Egypt, imperial China was the first exotic civilization to compel Europe’s admiration.  As with many love affairs, this Sinophilia reposed on an imperfect foundation where genuine perceptions contended with idealistic, even unlikely expectations. In the visual arts this fascination played out, for a time at least, in Chinoiserie objects and landscape architecture.  Later, as the relationship soured, came the belittlement associated with Orientalist scholarship.  It was left for a third phase, one still in progress, to open the way to a deeper appreciation of China and its art. 

Origins of Western Sinophilia.

Sinophilia came to Western intellectuals in a round-about way, for it was the biproduct of a campaign by Catholic missionaries to convert the “heathen Chinee” to the Christian faith.  Recognizing that confrontation would be futile, the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who lived in China form 1583 until his death in 1610, chose to adopt Chinese dress and manners so as to assimilate into the influential class of the literati.2  In exchange for his welcome, he had some things to offer, including Western mathematics, chemistry, and cartography.  In due course a small army of Jesuits arrived to continue Ricci’s work.3  Their aim was to convert the upper levels of the society, in hopes that a trickle-down process would bring the masses along. 

As a result of their efforts to master the language, the Catholic missionaries became increasingly impressed with Chinese philosophy--seduced one might almost say. The Chinese, or so they concluded optimistically, were essentially monotheistic.  Therefore they were ripe for conversion to the True Faith.

During the time of Louis XIV (1638-1715), when French Jesuits became dominant among the missionaries dispatched to the Middle Kingdom, idealization of this great nation reached its height.  The Jesuits translated the Chinese classics, sending back enthusiastic reports of the high moral standards evidenced by them.  This ethical eminence was not mere theory, but served  as the basis for the ostensibly faultless operations of the “celestial bureaucracy” that kept the Empire going.  Such claims found favor in France because China seemed a model of enlightened monarchy for a Western nation that had only recently passed through a long period of turbulence. 

Yet not all the response was positive: voices were raised in conservative Roman Catholic circles against the Jesuit findings in Asia for having exaggerated the similarities between Christianity and Confucianism so as to erase the uniqueness of the True Faith.  In order to enhance the importance of their mission the Jesuits engaged in self-censorship, deleting from their reports some of the seamy side of imperial China.

The flood of publications continued.  The last major contribution to this endeavor was Joseph-François de Moyriac de Mailla’s multivolume Histoire générale de la Chine, published in Paris from 1777 to 1785.  Derived from official Chinese sources, De Mailla’s work is shot through with Confucian moralizing.  This bias notwithstanding, this history laid the foundation for a periodization of Chinese history that was to become standard in the West. 

Jesuit advocacy bore fruit in secular circles in Europe.  The German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716), having given thought to binary mathematics, applied it to the hexagrams of the Book of Changes (I Ching), reading mystical truths into the result.4  His correspondence with learned Jesuits made him a great enthusiast for things Chinese. Leibniz asserted that just as Western missionaries were needed in China to convey the truths of Christianity, so Chinese missionaries should be sent to the West to instruct in matters of secular ethics, where Europe lagged far behind. 

The most enthusiastic of the Sinophiles was Voltaire (1694-1778), who embraced a highly idealized view of China for his own purposes.  If the Qing empire, following the venerable precepts of Confucius who was ignorant of Christ, could achieve such an orderly regime, then was it not conceivable that Europe could obtain similar results without the crutch of revealed religion?  In a bold step, the French thinker opened his universal history, the Essai sur les moeurs (1756), with a long section on China.  His Dictionnnaire philosophique (1765) honors Confucius as the archetypal philosopher.  For Voltaire and other Enlightenment thinkers who shared his views, sinophilia morphed into a virtual sinomania.5

Chinese Export Goods and Chinoiserie.

In the realm of the visual arts influences came west through more prosaic channels. Sea-borne trade brought masses of Chinese porcelain to wealthy Europeans, a trade still recalled in our common noun “china.” 6 The secret of making porcelain remained a Chinese monopoly until 1710, when the German Meissen factories began to produce such pieces commercially.  

During the heyday of their ceramic trade, Chinese craftspeople came to understand that they could sell more if they modified their painted designs to accord with current European tastes, and even to accept orders for china services bearing designs sent from Europe, which they inevitably executed with a certain exotic flavor.  Through these means Europeans were gradually habituated to Asian design principles, at least up to a point.  For such adjustments inevitably gave Europeans a skewed picture of authentic Chinese work.  Thus when the eighteenth-century vogue for chinoiserie generated imitations of Chinese art, they almost always appeared in diluted form--not infrequently with rococo curlicues as a side benefit.7

This question arises.  How could those who had not been to China--and very few enthusiasts had been--visualize the country and its monuments?  For a long time most images stemmed from a book by one Jan Nieuhoff, counselor of the Dutch East India Company, whose An Embassy of the East India Company to the Grand Tartar Cham, Emperor of China appeared in an English edition in 1669, four years after the Dutch original.  Versions of Nieuhoff’s plates were utilized by J. B. Fischer von Erlach when he included Chinese architecture in his pioneering universal survey Entwuff einer historischen Architektur (Vienna, 1721).  By various channels the Nieuhoff-derived images fostered Western simulations of oriental pavilions, pagodas, and gardens.8

The Trianon de Porcelaine, which Louis XIV built on the grounds of Versailles for his mistress Madame de Montespan, was the the first of a number of charming pavilions that began to sprout in park-like settings from Sweden to Sicily.  With their emphasis on lightness and informality, chinoiserie themes blended particularly well with rococo decoration.  Perhaps the most important contribution to architecture in this vein was that of the Scottish architect Sir William Chambers, who had actually been to China.  His 1757 folio Designs of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils: To Which is Annexed a Description of Their Temples, Houses, Gardens, &c. was followed by the construction of a real pagoda at Kew near London (completed in 1772).9  However, Chambers soon abandoned this Chinese dalliance as inappropriate to his aspirations to be recognized as a major architect.

There still lingered the idea of a Chinese “order” or way of design which was valid in its own terms and not simply to be judged according to the canons of European normative classicism.  As a vehicle of aesthetic pluralism, the “Chinese taste” tended to march in step with resurgent medievalism, witness the slim volume of plates entitled Chinese and Gothic Architecture Properly Ornamented by William and John Halfpenny (1752).  Here the prospective patron could find an assortment of gingerbread arches, crenellations, and latticework, applied to a basically European building core. Others opined, perhaps whimsically, that the Chinese fashion was edging out its rivals.  As Lady Mary Wortley Montagu exclaimed in 1740: “Sick of Grecian elegance and symmetry, or Gothic grandeur and magnificence, we must all seek the barbarous gaudy gout [taste] of the Chinese.”10

Disillusionment and the Beginnings of a Better Understanding.
In due course the rococo, with which chinoiserie had been intertwined, yielded to the austerity of the style of Louis XIV, a harbinger of neoclassicism.  Moreover, in the realm of ideas a reaction set in against the idealization of Chinese society.  Some thinkers, while they granted that the Middle Kingdom might be orderly, insisted that it was still a despotism and that the arbitrary exactions of such a regime were too high a price to pay. Adam Smith went further.  The Scottish economist believed that China was overpopulated, as evidenced by the prevalence of infanticide.  And indeed all was not well in China itself. By sealing themselves off from the outside world the Qing (Manchu) rulers lost the benefit of the stimulus of foreign trade.  Having attained an impressive level of development, Chinese society now seemed mired in stagnation.

The decline of China’s reputation in he West reached its nadir in the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831), who treated Asian civilizations as but a series of historical fossils, destined to fall ever further behind the dynamic West.11  By the time of the Opium War (1839-42), provoked by Great Britain, Europeans were prepared to think the worst of the corrupt Chinamen.  From here it was but a step to the unspeakable cruelty of the cunning Dr. Fu Manchu, the personification of the “Yellow Peril,” as depicted in the popular novels of Sax Rohmer (1883-1959). 

The romance of sinophilia had enjoyed a long run.  Colored by unrealistic Western expectations and often tenuous in character, owing to lack of direct experience, attachment to China did evidence a real generosity of spirit towards another civilization.  Yet the exaggerations produced by the initial enthusiasm were bound in the end to produce skepticism. Before long this disappointment yielded, all too often, to contempt.

Yet this disparagement was not universally shared.  The importation and trading of Chinese porcelains did not cease with the start of Western competition in the early eighteenth century.  As collectors became more sophisticated, their interests shifted away from the showy Qing pieces to the more subtle objects of earlier dynasties, especially the exquisite wares of the Song dynasty and the dignified blue-and-white of the Ming dynasty  In the burgeoning Western settlements in such ports as Shanghai and Hong Kong, Western connoisseurs and dealers could mingle with Chinese counterparts, learning from them how to discriminate objects of different periods in accordance with the traditional dynasties.  More accurate dating affected market prices, as objects of more favored periods fetched more.  For the more disinterested observer eager to expand his or her knowledge of Chines culture as a whole, this understanding of ceramics as a sequence of development could serve as a model.  And in fact similar discriminations in other media soon followed.  Appreciation for the splendid bronzes of early times grew, and many paintings became available as a result of Chinese civil strife that facilitated bargain sales and looting--a situation that was to continue off and on until the inception of the People’s Republic in 1949.

Western Approaches.

An early lead was taken by the “old China hands,” most of them British residents in the country.  The Scot James Legge (1815-1897) went to China as a missionary, but eventually he took up the study of the ancient texts that had been initiated by the Jesuits.12  His monumental edition of the Chinese Classics with introductions, translations, and notes appeared in 28 volumes from 1861 to 1886.  Despite their cumbersome Victorian style, some of these books are still in print and consulted by scholars.  Sir Thomas Francis Wade (1818-1895) served as British ambassador at Peking from 1871 to 1883.  Taking up a professorship at Cambridge, he devised the system of transliterating Chinese that remained in common use until the People’s Republic introduced the Pinyin system.

After working in the Chinese consular service, Herbert Allen Giles (1845-1935) succeeded Wade as professor at Cambridge, where he prepared a number of learned works, including a Chinese-English Dictionary (Shanghai, 1897).  As part of his endeavor he authored a History of Chinese Pictorial Art (Shanghai, 1905), a work that, despite good intentions, suffered from its author’s lack of affinity with the subject. 

The same reproach cannot be laid at the door of Laurence Binyon (1869-1943), an English poet who was in charge of the collection of Oriental prints and drawings at the British Museum from 1913 to 1934.  With literary taste formed by the aestheticism of the 1890s, Binyon wrote such highly evocative studies as Painting in the Far East (London, 1908) and The Flight of the Dragon: An Essay on the Theory and Practice of Art in China and Japan (London, 1922) that showed a remarkable sensitivity to the subject bus scanted critical and factual aspects.  In 1925-29, however, Binyon collaborated with R. L. Hobson and Percival Yetts in a monumental Catalogue of the Eumorphopoulos Collection, which set new standards for accuracy and critical acumen.

Perhaps the most accomplished of British Orientalists of this period, however, was Arthur Waley (1889-1966).  Together with the similar (if less philologically accurate) work of Ezra Pound, Waley’s subtle, unadorned renderings of Chinese poetry reached a large public, arguably helping to redirect the course of English modern poetry itself.  Waley’s contributions to the study of art were limited, however, to documentary analyses of collections. 

At all events, British championing of Chinese culture culminated in the great International Exhibition of Chinese Art.  Held from November 1935 to March 11936 at Burlington House, the seat of the Royal Academy in London, it attracted scholars and connoisseurs from all over the world.

Objects from the celestial kingdom began to reach America in the eighteenth century as a byproduct of the tea trade.  Yet few American collections were formed until after interest in the Far East picked up in consequence of Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan in 1853-54.13

Charles Lang Freer (1856-1919), a self-made millionaire based in Detroit, developed an interest in Asian objects through his friendship with the painter James McNeil Whistler.14  Realizing that his means were not unlimited, Freer shifted away from European works, concentrating first on Japanese art, then on Chinese.  He relied on his own cultivated taste and good advice from others, showing little interest in the broader context of East Asian civilizations.  For him the objects communicated directly.  Freer had a strong belief in public education; in 1905 he directed that his collection be donated to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, where the Freer Gallery continues its mission to this day.  Freer’s polar opposite was John C. Ferguson (1866-1945), who resided most of his life in China; fluent in the language, he insisted on the importance of texts and cultural practices as tools to enhance the understanding of the art.  In this way Freer and Ferguson founded two complementary trends.  Today’s study of Chinese art benefits from the fruitful competition between the formalists, especially museum curators like Laurence Sickman and Sherman Lee whose emphasis on the accessibility of Asian art did much to build a large public for it America; and sinologists such as John A. Pope and Wen Fong, who have markedly elevated standards of scholarship and attribution.

At the beginning of the twentieth century a series of field expeditions to Central Asia led by such figures as Sir Aurel Stein, Paul Pelliot, and Albert von Le Coq brought back huge caches of Buddhist material from earlier times, documenting little-known aspects of Chinese and Inner Asian art history.15  Behind these formidable expeditions lies a story of imperial rivalries as European powers competed for influence.  Once the objects went on display in in the West they exercised their own fascination.  Today, Chinese authorities bitterly lament their loss.  In fact, Buddhist sculpture and painting, though they constitute some of the country’s most impressive remains, had long been ignored by Confucian scholars since these works did not accord with traditional expectations of what was proper for China.  The expeditions by these Western scholars also helped to clarify China’s relationship with other parts of Asia.  Material in China itself, including colossal Buddha figures, was photographed and published by the Frenchmen Edouard Chavannes and Victor Segalen.

Knowledge of indigenous traditions was advanced by a series of heartland excavations, from 1898 onwards, that enormously extended our knowledge of pre-Han and prehistoric culture.  In the 1920s these investigations crystallized into a tradition of scientific archaeology that, with interruptions due to civil war and the Cultural Revolution, has continued until the present.16

Long before the practice of scientific excavation had been perfected, ritual bronze objects of the Shang and Zhou periods, many removed from clandestine digs, had become available to Western collectors. With their intricacy of ornament and lack of realism, these objects were remote from anything in Western experience, so that their appreciation was for a long time limited to a cultivated few.  In 1913 a German observer, one F. R. Martin, went so far as to assert that the art emerging from the Chinese earth was “barbaric; indeed to judge from the only certain remains, the early bronzes very barbaric. Western Asia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome combined to create out of the early beginnings, which do show great manual dexterity, an art which we call Chinese.”17  A common stereotype of the time was that however it may have begun, Chinese art owed its more refined features to the stimulus of the “more advanced” civilizations of the Mediterranean.

Significant Western collections of the bronzes were nonetheless published by Albert J. Koop (1924), Ernst Arthur Voretsch (1924) and Otto Kümmel (1928).  Still, full understanding of these remarkable Shang and Zhou objects had to await the controlled Anyang excavations (beginning in 1928), which supplied comparative material for the forms and inscriptions.  At the same time, European scholars were struck by affinities with bronze pieces found farther north, in Siberia, suggesting a common cultural substratum in this whole vast sector of East Asia--a substratum dominated by shamanism.

As a rule, however, Europeans and Americans continued to regard painting as the preeminent art.  And China did not disappoint them.  During the interwar period, the Swedish scholar Osvald Sirén (1879-1966), trained in the field of Italian art history, saw the need to go beyond earlier studies of Chinese painting so as to apply the up-to-date methods that had been developed for the analysis of European paintings.  He published a number of hefty tomes in the field, the most significant of them constituting his History of Chinese Painting (London, 1933-38; rev. ed. 1956-58). Reflecting his earlier studies of Italian art--he had written on Giotto and Leonardo da Vinci--Sirén’s work employs the techniques of connoisseurship to match surviving paintings with the names transmitted in the sources.  Unfortunately, some of the attributions to the earlier masters proved overoptimistic, since the Swedish scholar tended to accept later copies or pastiches as genuine works.18  With the collaboration of two Chinese assistants (whom he did not name) Sirén also produced the first broad-ranging collection of English-language renderings of Chinese sources (The Chinese on the Art of Painting, Peking,1936).

During the eighteenth century reports of Chinese landscape architecture, reportedly governed by the mysterious principle of”sharawadgi,” influenced the Western aesthetic, part of the chinoiserie craze.19 Yet serious study of the actual monuments of Chinese architecture was long delayed, owing to the difficulty of access to older buildings which were generally not located in the major modern centers, a problem augmented by the disappearance of many wooden structures.20  As interest peaked in Chinese art in the 1920s, this ignorance began to dissipate.  In 1925 Ernst Boerschmann brought out a large album of 340 good collotype plates, Chinesische Architektur.  Regrettably, the text conveyed no real understanding of the underlying principles.  The ubiquitous Oswald Sirén did somewhat better in his The Walls and Gates of Peking (New York, 1924), and The Imperial Palaces of Peking (Paris and Brussels, 1926), which made selective use of the the fundamental Yingza Fashi (Building Standards), compiled in 1103.  Yet it was left to a Chinese scholar to put this field on a sound footing.  Significantly, Liang Ssu-cheng (1901-1972) was trained in the 1920s under the Beaux-Arts guidance of Paul Cret at the  University of Pennsylvania, where he received instruction not only in Western methods of surveying and drafting, but also in architectural history.  Returning to his native land, he commenced an energetic program of locating dated buildings and recording them. Communicated in some preliminary volumes in the Chinese language, his work in laying the foundations of Chinese architectural history was essentially completed during World War II.  His results were only made fully available after his death in A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture, edited by Wilma Fairbank (Boston, 1984).

Western scholars have generally agreed to periodize Chinese Art History according to the dynastic sequence the Chinese themselves had devised.  In addition to bringing the story down to the end of imperial China with the fall of the Qing in 1912,, the system encouraged enquiries into ever more remote antiquity. The Zhou dynasty (ca. 1027-256 BCE) was well attested from written texts that originated during its later centuries; a mass of inscriptions, constantly increased by new finds, supplemented these attestations. Moreover, excavations supplied abundant material from the previous Shang dynasty (ca. 1523-ca. 1027 BCE).  Only the earliest of the “Three Dynasties” the primordial Xia (ca. 1994-1523 BCE) remained in the shadows. Yet recent excavations at the site of Erhlitou seem to be fleshing it out.  Prior to these advances, prehistoric phases had to be designated from type sites, such as Yangshao and Longshan, in accordance with international practice.

In a medium where names masters are usually lacking, dynastic periodization was the mainstay of Robert Lockhart Hobson's Chinese Pottery and Porcelain (London, 1915), and the procedure continued to serve William Bowyer Honey's The Ceramic Art of China and Other Countries of the Far East (London, 1944). Specialized monographs have subsequently appeared covering the ceramics of the various separate periods.

The dynastic principle generally prevailed also in media that were better documented. Ludwig Bachofer came to America from Germany, where he had imbibed the basic principles of formal analysis.  From this perspective he portrayed Chinese art as a straightforward march from the archaic to the classical to the baroque (A Short History of Chinese Art, New York, 1946).  Some preferred a more abstract scheme, including the American George Rowley, who wrote of “three distinctive kinds of representation: linear-planar shapes, plastic volumes, and pictorial surfaces.”21  In his view these stages corresponded to the pre-Tang, the Tang-Song, and the Ming-Qing epochs.  As he conceded, the model was essentially the periods of Greek art from archaic to classic to Hellenistic. 

The book that consolidated the image of Chinese art history in the English-speaking world was a volume in the prestigious Pelican History of Art, the series coordinated by Sir Nikolaus Pevsner.  In their Art and Architecture of China (Harmondsworth, 1956), Lawrence Sickman and Alexander Soper generally follow the dynastic sequence, though the volume innovates by offering full treatment to architecture (Soper’s brilliant contribution).  Unfortunately this survey largely ignored the so-called minor arts of ceramics, lacquer, enamels, jades, ivory carving and the rest.

Ironically, while Western scholars usually paid the Chinese the complement of adopting the traditional pattern of dynasties, matters were different in the People’s Republic, where political directives for art historians and archaeologists required them to adopt to a historical-materialist schema derived from Marx and Engels in which primitive society, slavery, and feudalism marked three stages in a developmental juggernaut propelled by the “relations of production.” Preferred as a matter of course in indigenous publications, this sequence was also propagated abroad, though without much success.  For a time, visitors to exhibitions in the United States and Western Europe displaying recent finds from the People’s Republic were puzzled by catalogues and museum labels conforming to the new orthodoxy, so different from the periodization to which they were accustomed.  Never abandoned in Taiwan, the traditional dynastic ordering has recently returned to prominence in mainland publications.

As has been noted, the history of Western efforts to comprehend Chinese civilization and art has been punctuated by a series of misunderstandings--sometimes creative ones.  An influential exemplar of such an “off-center” approach is found in the work of the poet and cultural critic Ezra Pound, a latter-day follower of the Jesuit-originated idealization of China.22 This American who long resided abroad (but never visited the Far East) even advocated that the West should adopt Chinese classical culture to fill the niche vacated by the retreat of Greco-Roman norms.  While Pound’s vibrant renderings of the Chinese classics make a strong impression on lay readers, modern sinologists generally prefer versions that are philologically more accurate.  Following Ernest Fenollosa, Pound came to believe that because of its indwelling pictographic residues the Chinese written character possessed a unique capacity to bridge the visual and verbal realms.  The poet did not realize that as a rule the modern standard forms have evolved too far away from the images that ultimately gave then rise for them to be recognized by today’s readers.  For most characters there is no substitute for simple memorization.  The characters adorning his Cantos here and there serve a kind of talismanic function, affirming major points in Pound’s value system.

Curiously, Pound’s homage to another culture has been repaid  by a post-Mao school of Chinese poetry owing something of its direction to his theories.  Departing from the litanies of praise that had heretofore dominated the poetry of the People’s Republic, writers of mengleng poetry draw upon the example of Western modernism, emphasizing aspects in them which they believed were leading them, paradoxically.back to neglected indigenous traditions.23  Thus the history of the encounter of East and West is not restricted to a series of successively more adequate approximations to understanding the Other, but also includes the vitalizing impetus of creative interpretations, regardless of whether they are, strictly speaking, misunderstandings or not.

Today, study of Chinese art in Western universities is organizationally divided.24  Some academics prefer to work with colleagues in the field of art and art history; others follow the “area studies” approach with departments and programs on East Asia as their primary site of activity.  Museum personnel continue to make an important contribution. Above all, knowledge of Mandarin (and increasingly, of Japanese as well) is essential. As recently as the 1950s, it was possible to encounter major scholars of Chinese art who did not know the language. An emerging field is the study of Chinese art in the twentieth century, which has registered many exciting changes.25

Whatever their individual political views, Western scholars must pay practical attention to the “Chinas” (in the plural), for scholarship from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore cannot be neglected  Moreover, generations of devoted scholarship in Japan have thrown much light on the history of Chinese society and its culture.


Although a number of European travelers and missionaries visited Mongolia and China during the thirteenth century, medieval Europe seems to have had no knowledge of Japan at all.  In 1542, apparently, that is towards the close of the Ashikaga period, a Portuguese traveler named Fernám Mendes Pinto was driven by accident onto Japanese shores. He was soon followed by the Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552), who had very ambitious plans. By 1600 Japan reputedly boasted a million converts to Roman Catholicism.

In the middle of the sixteenth century the Portuguese had begun some limited trade with Japan, with lacquer being the country’s most conspicuous export.  In 1601 the Dutch obtained letters patent to trade throughout the emperor’s dominions.  The Dutch East India Company founded a factory at Hirado in 1609.  When the shoguns, alarmed by Christianity’s spread, attacked and expelled the Spanish and Portuguese in 1639, the Dutch were allowed to stay, but only after agreeing to restrict themselves to the island of Deshima in Nagasaki harbor.  Conditions in this redoubt were harsh, but the trade was too lucrative to be abandoned.

When the turmoil attendant on the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 interfered with their Chinese porcelain trade, the Dutch sought replacements in Japan, where they enjoyed a monopoly.  From 1659 to 1745 they pursued a lively trade in Japanese luxury ceramics, objects in demand in all the chief European countries.26  Significantly, the only categories of Japanese ceramics sought were the “high art” pieces, generally porcelain, that accorded broadly with Chinese taste.  The distinctive Japanese pieces for the tea ceremony, generally of stoneware not porcelain, were not wanted, being too quirky and irregular to suit the Western aesthetics at the time.  Their day was to come later.

The Opening of Japan, and Japonisme in the West.

After the middle of the eighteenth century Japan became even more closed than it ad been before.  It was not to become accessible again until 1854, when the American Commodore Matthew Perry extracted a trade agreement from the shogun’s government. Japanese goods proliferated at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition in 1876, as the United States responded enthusiastically to these novel Asian exports.27  Soon America and Europe were flooded with Japanese products--lacquer boxes, fans, ceramics, ivories, bronzes, and especially the wood-block prints known as ukiyo-e.

The European enthusiasm for ukiyo-e is one of the best-studied themes in the entire history of cultural interchange.  Arriving oftentimes as wrapping in shipments of pricier items, the prints quickly gathered a following, especially in France. But that was not the whole story. The phenomenon of Japonisme comprises not simply the taste for Japanese object and the pattern of their acquisition, but also their contribution to evolving European creativity.28  Van Gogh actually copied works by Hiroshige, while Manet, Gauguin, and Whistler reproduced prints they admired in their own paintings. 

Other forms of indebtedness noted by scholars are more general, as seen in the asymmetry and cropping of Degas’ compositions and the bright color and flattened spaces of Monet.  These seeming relationships are what is sometimes termed “affinities”--a term that advisedly leaves moot the degree of actual influence, since Western art may have been moving in this direction through its own inner dynamic.  Although it may be that in some instances the artists relied upon a Japanese exemplar that has not been traced, or were expressing a more generic understanding of the principles of Japanese art, some skepticism is merited for it may be also that such tenuous links are the product of wishful thinking of modern scholars, eager to credit Europeans with sympathy for a remote civilization.  There is also a tendency to correlate the influence of the prints to successive shifts of the avant-garde.  Such posited sources may help us to understand the changes, but they may also deflect us from seeking the underlying reasons for their occurrence.  Still, it seems fair to say that such influences stretched beyond the superficialities of the chinoiserie craze of a century before to achieve a genuine homage to the compositional excellences of these tableaux of a remote and engaging society.

The path of assimilation was smoothed by another factor, one unrecognized at the time.  Although European collectors and artists regarded the prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige as the pure milk of the exotic, the nutrient had in a sense been predigested, for those two masters of ukiyo-e  had themselves absorbed Western notions of perspective, including bold contrasts of near and far objects.29

Attempts at an Overall Interpretation of Japanese Art and Culture.

Europeans and Americans who flocked to Japan for visits or longer stays recognized that there was much more to Japanese life than the prints.  The writings of Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), an American who moved permanently to the Land of the Rising Sun in 1890, have continued to find devoted readers because of their literary qualities and penchant for the ghostly and demoniacal.30  Yet generally the information reached the Western world filtered through the screen of popular culture.  The result was an image of Japan that was either comically quaint, as in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado (1885), or pathetically tragic, as in David Belasco’s Madame Butterfly (1900), later set to music by Giacomo Puccini.

Once this wave of superficial interest subsided, Euro-Americans were confronted with a need to understand a civilization that to them was profoundly problematic, not least in the arts.  First, the Japanese did not acknowledge the established (for Europeans) privileging of the three Fine Arts, painting, sculpture, and architecture--with the “applied arts” firmly relegated to the sidelines.  Fortunately the time-honored Western disparagement of the crafts was changing at this time.  The Japanese take very seriously such categories as lacquer and ceramics, preferences that for a time happily converged with the Western trend of the arts and crafts movement, which sought, though without complete success, to challenge the old hierarchies. 

Yet the arts and crafts tradition adhered to the Western ideal of the art work as a material object, destined by its superior workmanship to last.  For their part, however, the Japanese also treasured ephemeral creativity, such as flower arrangement, not to speak of what we would now term “performance art,” as seen in the tea ceremony an moon viewing.  Characteristically, the Japanese take much trouble in the visual presentation of food--so quickly devoured that the lifetime of the art work is almost as brief as possible.

Another theme that struck Westerners was the Japanese reverence for nature and their willingness to let it penetrate their living arrangements.  Westerners, to be sure, cherished their own heritage of the pastoral, the arcadian ideal, and landscape, but these were not in synch with the very different Japanese predilections. Nor could the Japanese attitude to nature be simply explained as one of simple harmony with it, for the raked patterns of the gravel beds of Japanese gardens are highly abstract and “unnatural.”

Japanese art and civilization have been highly dependent on Chinese tutelage, not just at the start but throughout history.  Europeans could to some extent parallel this relationship with their own reliance on ancient Greece and Rome, but these societies were dead and gone, while China was always a living reality.  The link with China was most pervasive in the ideogramic script, which the Japanese had adopted as their own, though with some modifications.  Calligraphy, honored by both peoples as a fine art, was an enhancement of this cultural resource, for which Europe with its more prosaic alphabetic script had no real equivalent.  Japan and China were linked by Buddhism, a faith that enjoys a vast literature, elaborate philosophy, varying sects, and a distinctive iconography.  In China the Jesuits and the secular sinophiles who came after them had taken over the prejudice of the literati against Buddhism, ignoring it as much as possible. But this aloofness was simply not viable in Japan, with its deep and abiding affinity for Buddhism.

If Japan was so indebted to China what was there that was Japanese about Japanese art?  Some Europeans and Americans began to focus on the visual traditions of the Yamato-e, or “Japanese mode,” in contrast to the imported Chinese painting aesthetic. Others recognized the need to examine the buildings and artifacts of Shinto, the indigenous religion, as well as the prehistoric world of the Haniwa sculptures, untouched by influences coming from the Asian mainland.

As Europeans sought to understand the shape of the history of Japanese art as a whole they discerned a certain alternation of foreign and indigenous trends.  One prevailed for a time, and the yielded to its opposite.  Thus the wave of Tang influence from China fell away before the rise of the native trend in painting, the original Yamato-e.  Then a predilection for  southern Song-style ink landscapes set in, only to be followed by the bright colors of Momoyama screen painting.  In their turn European influences that came in with the Portuguese and Dutch receded and the Ukiyo-e redressed the balance emphasizing native themes once more.  Finally, the almost abject surrender to Western art of the Meiji period was countered by the rise of an opposing “New National Painting.”

All this, whether seen as succession or simultaneity, must somehow be made into a whole: inescapably, Japanese art was a juxtaposition, an intersection, a fusion of imported and indigenous elements.

Beyond the realm of art Westerners were struck by a seeming paradox of Japanese culture itself.  As their castles and samurai attested, the Japanese were a warlike people. Yet these same warriors could appreciate the most subtle poetry and participate in refined social rituals that Europeans found effete if not effeminate.

Relying on their own intuitions as well as Japanese sources, Westerners came to cherish a view of Japanese art as one of indirection and silences--what is not said is as important as what is said.  They found evidence of such an aesthetic in such diverse sources as the Noh drama, Haiku poetry, decorative screens, and funky Japanese stoneware ceramics.  Yet none of these things prepared Europeans--or perhaps the Japanese themselves--for Japan’s spectacular advance into modernity and postmodernity in the closing decades of the twentieth century.


For Americans, who soon came to excel in the field, the first trail of serious scholarship in Japanese art was blazed by the New England zoologist Edward S. Morse (1838-1925), who in 1877 accepted an invitation to teach his specialty at the Imperial University in Tokyo.  Discovering the beauty of Japanese ceramics by accident, he began a long career of proselytizing on behalf of the art of his country of adoption.31

Morse was succeeded by a more famous New Englander turned Japanophile. Recommended by Charles Eliot Norton, Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908) assumed a teaching post in Japan, where he became a Buddhist.32  There he found that, impelled by the incipient modernization process and aided by European tutors, a shift to Western-style painting was in full swing.33  Fenollosa took vigorous steps to remind the Japanese of their own traditions, for which he was later honored by Japanese officialdom.  The American formed a bond with Kakuzo Okakura (1862-1913), a descendent of a Samurai family who had specialized in the English language; together the pair formulated many influential ideas about Japanese art and culture.  On returning to the United States Fenollosa became curator of oriental art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  Stressing the accessibility of Asian art through its universal formal qualities, his books also sought to provide the necessary cultural background.

Edited by his widow, the two volumes of Fenollosa’s posthumous magnum opus, Epochs of Chinese and Japanese Art appeared in New York in 1912.  Although the American scholar was deeply attached to Japan, he recognized China’s role in the formation of Japanese art. Accordingly, his book features three main topics: Buddhist art, idealist art, and modern art--all with reference to both of the great Asian civilizations.

Personal failings kept Okakura from establishing himself as the spiritus animator of the art of his native land at the Tokyo School of Art34 After traveling to China and India, he followed Fenollosa to Boston, where he joined the circle of Isabella Stewart Gardner, a prominent socialite and collector.  Powerfully imbued with a desire to establish Eastern art on the same plane as Western, Okakura’s book The Ideals of the East (New York, 1904) emphasizes the unity of Asian art. More innovative was his Book of Tea (New York, 1906).  This second work stressed such concepts as Daoism, Zen, and asymmetry as determinants of the tea ceremony.  Disregarding painting and sculpture, so central to the Western tradition, the Japanese scholar properly situated the tea ceremony in the realm of fine art.  Implicit in his work was the sense that Westerners, fi they were to understand Japanese art, must adjust to a canon of the arts radically different from their own.  Moreover, Okakura helped to popularize the distinctively Japanese wares used in the tea ceremony, and to encourage Western potters like Bernard Leach to seek instruction in Japan.

Fenollosa’s magnum opus appeared in a German translation in 1923.  Earlier, Oskar Münsterberg, not realizing the enormity of the task he had undertaken, had attempted a Japanische Kunstgeschichte in three volumes (Braunschweig, 1904-07). The writer began by noting the need to recognize the distinctive characteristics of Japanese culture, features that made the art different from what one might expect.  In keeping with the interests of his public, but also in a spirit of legitimate recognition of the nature of Japanese art, Münsterberg emphasized such decorative arts as lacquer, ceramics, and netsuke.  Perhaps inevitably, errors were detected in this pioneering work, adn other scholars such as Ernst Cohn-Wiener, Ernst Diez, Curt Glaser, and Otto Kümmel provided more accurate handbooks of East Asian art, satisfying the appetite for such art-reference works in German-speaking lands.

In America interest in Japanese crafts stemmed from the array of objects shown at Philadelphia in 1876, as has been noted. Yet this interest led to a flood of cheap imported goods that for long distorted the perception of Japanese achievements.  The Chicago World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893 was graced by a Japanese pavilion, a copy of the Ho-oden (Phoenix Hall), a venerable twelfth-century building near Kyoto.  Among those impressed by this structure was the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who was just beginning his astounding career. Over the course of his life Wright assembled several collections of Japanese prints and in several extended visits to the country absorbed essential aspects of the Japanese aesthetic.35  Like many creative figures, however, Wright never seems to have acquired much sense of the historical development of Japanese art; instead he took what he needed for his own purposes.  In Southern California the brothers Charles and Henry Green cultivated a type of residential architecture that seemed more deeply indebted to the spirit of old Japan.

The Japanese scholar Daisetsu Suzuki (1870-1966) was the most important figure in the propagation of Zen, the Japanese version of Chan, in the West. After collaborating on translations with the orientalist Paul Carus in Illinois, Suzuki taught in a number of Japanese and American universities, including Columbia in New York.  A prolific writer, he maintained that satori (awakening) was the goal of the tradition’s training. Suzuki’s background as a university-educated intellectual steeped in Western philosophy and literature allowed him to be particularly effective in presenting his case to a Western audience. In his view, Zen Buddhism was a highly practical religion whose emphasis on direct experience made it comparable to forms of mysticism that scholars such as William James regarded as the fountainhead of all religious sentiment. This idea of a common essence made Suzuki's ideas accessible to Westerners, who could make connections with their own esotericism. Suzuki presents a version of Zen that can be described as detraditionalized and universalized.

In response to Suzuki’s work of popularization, Zen became a component of the “beat” strain of the counterculture, as seen in such figures as Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Kenneth Rexroth. Kay Larson’s book Where the Heart Beats (New York, 2012) assembles a remarkable variety of people and events: John Cage at Black Mountain College, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg in Greenwich Village, Daisetsu Suzuki at Columbia and the New School, Yoko Ono and the Happenings in New York, the Judson Dance Center, and the poet Dick Higgins in several places. They are revealed to have a single unifying source: Zen Buddhism.

In Japan Zen produced its own varieties of art, especially in brush painting.  Western affinities with Zen Buddhism have been detected in a broad range of artists, from Claude Monet to contemporary abstraction.36

Boston-based like Fenollosa, Langdon Warner (1881-1955) acquired an unsavory reputation through his rapacious art-collecting expeditions in Central Asia.  Nonetheless, his concise book, The Enduring Art of Japan (Boston, 1952) succeeded in conveying a vivid sense of Japanese culture.  He articulated his book around specific themes, such as historical periods and institutions such as Zen, Shinto, the tea ceremony, gardens, and folk art.

This short, readable volume was to prove the last of its tribe, for in 1955 the Pelican series issued its formidable volume on the Art and Architecture of Japan, complementing the the Sickman-Soper survey of China noted above.  The first part on painting and sculpture, written by Robert Treat Paine, head of the Asiatic Department of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, largely follows the Japanese chronology by political eras, prefacing these with a brief discussion of the “archaic period” preceding the introduction of Buddhism, and concluding with the Edo period of the shoguns. The second part of the book, Alexander Soper’s account of architecture, adopts a somewhat more flexible scheme to take account of the differences between Buddhist and Shinto architecture, and of these in turn with secular building.  Although coverage in their chosen fields is adequate in Paine’s case and outstanding in Soper’s, neither offers any discussion of modern developments.  For all one could judge from this book, Japanese art ended with Commodore Perry’s incursion of 1853-54.  Even more cripplingly, the design of the book's two narratives (Paine and Soper worked independently of each other) imposes the alien Western straightjacket of the three “fine arts” of painting, sculpture, and architecture on Japan.  While discussion of outstanding monuments in these media is appropriate, ceramics and cloisonné, netsuke and origami scarcely merit a mention.  In this way the Japanese “minor arts” are missing altogether.  The editors’ imposition of this alien scheme forfeited an opportunity to convey an important lesson on the cultural variability of art hierarchies. 

Apart from this conceptual failing--not restricted to this Pelican publication--there has been a significant disparity of effort.  In recent years publications by Westerners have not kept up with the pace of Japanese scholarship on Western art.  Fortunately, a number of these works have appeared in English translations and adaptations, beginning with Hoshu Minamoto’s An Illustrated History of Japanese Art (Kyoto, 1935) and Noritake Tsuda’s Handbook of Japanese Art (Tokyo, 1935), both general introductions.  Subsequent monographs concern such subjects as ceramics, mingei (folk art), kanban (shop signs), the prehistoric Haniwa sculptures, and so forth.  In recent years art books made in Japan, and not only on Japanese subjects, have advanced to the front rank, distinguished for quality of illustrations, typography, binding, and overall production values.


European contact with the civilization, and thus the art of India, displays a longer history than any of the other encounters described in this chapter, but the appreciation of Indian art has lagged behind that of the East Asian civilizations limned above.  The reasons for this seeming paradox are several, ranging from religious prejudice through a contempt for native Indian government and social structure, to the inclination of European writers to make selective use of examples from India to buttress intellectual arguments stemming from their own preoccupations. It certainly did not help that prominent themes of Western art seemed to be largely absent from that of India: portraits, landscapes, battle scenes, coronations, and other historical events. Instead, Indian art seemed to be mainly about outlandish heathen gods, demons, and monsters.

Early Contacts and Impressions.

Maritime trade between India and Mesopotamia resulted in the exchange of seals and coins as early as the latter third millennium BCE. That India enjoyed a high civilization was well known to the ancient Greeks. Indian military units served in the Persian army. In 326 BCE Alexander the Great launched an invasion of northwestern India. His Hellenistic successors, the Seleucids, kept in close contact with India (the flourishing under the Mauryan empire, which sent Buddhist missions to Alexandria and Damascus) until the founding of the Parthian empire in 250 BCE. Megasthenes, a Seleucid ambassador, wrote a widely-quoted and detailed account of life in India under the Mauryans, mentioning the large and luxurious carved and gilded wood-based architecture and sculpture of the time.37 Thereafter the Bactrian Greeks not only maintained contact but conquered major areas of northwest India. They were finally displaced by Scythian invaders in the middle of the first century BCE, bringing to a close the period of Hellenistic influence. Maritime trade between India and the Roman Empire continued, but the Sassanid Persian empire blocked the land routes.  The Arabs who displaced the Sassanids in 637 controlled the seas as well, completing the isolation of india from the West. This state of affairs lasted until Portuguese seafarers under Vasco de Gama found their way around Agrica to the coast of modern Kerala in 1498. The fact that their contact was thus with Hindu south India rather than the Muslim-ruled Mughal empire of north India conditioned the course of European perceptions of Indian art for centuries.

The first surviving Western description of Indian art work is by the Greek Bardasanes (154-222), who described a statue of the Hindu deity Śiva in the aspect of Ardhanārīśvara, half male and half female. The Greeks and Romans would have found nothing disturbing about this, since they had their own tradition of mythological hermaphrodites.

Portuguese and later European visitors found a prosperous land with an advanced civilization and elaborate works of art. There was, however, little resembling the European consciousness of history. Hence the problem of dating works of art, a prerequisite for any historical evaluation, largely a nonissue in the West, this dearth has hindered the construction of a history of Indian art to the present day. Largely indifferent to the history of their empires, whose works in wood had long since perished, the Indians had not developed a native tradition of art history. Europeans were, however, slow to undertake the task themselves.

What the devoutly Christian Portuguese confronted and began to colonize in 1510 was a heathen culture. On the surface, it appeared to be markedly polytheistic, and hence by Christian lights necessarily inferior to the supposedly monotheistic Chinese. Accustomed to the conventions of Western art, which attempted to depict the human body realistically, the Portuguese and subsequent European travelers found it hard to assimilate the many-armed, and multi-headed, sometimes animalistic images of Hindu deities which they found in temples along the South Indian coasts.38 (Had they instead first discovered the Buddhist sculpture of Northern India, much of which appears closer to the admired classical Greek statuary, the history of Western attitudes towards Indian art might have been different.)
The first widely circulated account of Indian religion or its art to reach Europe since Roman days came from the pen of the Bolognese Ludovico di Varthema, who had traveled in south India between 1503 and 1508. His Itinerario portrayed a royal chapel in Calicut (modern Kerala) in which the king worshipped a metal devil named Deumo who wore a papal crown, had four horns, hands like flesh-hooks and the feet of a rooster, surrounded by images of devils seizing souls. It is impossible to match Varthema’s description, with its close analogies to contemporary European images of Satan, to anything known today of south Indian iconography, and it arouses the suspicion that Varthema made the details up in order to please his Christian readers.
In any event, his verbal description inspired numerous printed illustrations, each more lurid than the one before. Such caricatures firmly established the stereotype of the Indian idol as “monster” in the European imagination, where it proved long resistant to correction. One reason for its persistence was that other sixteenth-century travelers were also reporting various horrifying tales of creatures with devilish aspect. Misshapen, deformed, with teeth hanging down to their knees. Or with tusks like boars, utilizing a host of medieval European artistic images of the Devil rather than giving accurate accounts of Hindu icons.

Later travelers would often repeat (sometimes nearly verbatim) previous descriptions of earlier demonic run-ins, rather than produce their own eyewitness accounts. This curious state of affairs leaves one at a loss for explanations; perhaps it is a matter best left to psychiatry. In any case it is clear that these voyagers simply could not cope with Hindu religious art.

There were some exceptions. The Florentine Andrea Corsali in 1515 deplored the wanton destruction of native temples by the Portuguese, praising “ancient figures worked with the greatest perfection” on the island of Divari. Corsali here introduced two major themes of subsequent European commentary on Indian art: that it originated in great antiquity, and was notable for fine workmanship - rather than style or imagination.
Corsali was followed by the Portuguese Garcia da Orta, who in 1534 visited the ruins of the great rock-cut temple complex on the island of Elephanta near modern Bombay, the first major architectural site in India to excite the European explorers. Da Orta thought the Elephanta complex to be of Chinese origin, “seeing that it is so well worked,” thereby introducing yet another long-lasting meme to European stereotypes about Indian monumental art.

Since Indian civilization at that time was contemptuously heathen, easily colonized, backward, and above all the product of an inferior, dark-skinned race, such imposing achievements had to have come from elsewhere. Like many Europeans of the time, Corsali was more impressed by the architecture than the actual sculpture itself. Architecture was also considered by ancient Indians to be the most important visual art.)39 Following in his steps, the Italian G. F. Gemelli-Careri published a serious study of the dimensions of Elephanta in 1700. He noted that it “is look’d upon as the Work of Alexander the Great, as for its extraordinary and incomparable Workmanship, which certainly could be undertaken by none but Alexander.”

Until the middle of the seventeenth century, Europeans had no knowledge of (and the Portuguese no interest in) Indian religion, and were therefore unable to make any sense of its religious art. Abraham Rogerius, a Dutch missionary, made the first dent in this ignorance in 1651 with the publication of De Open Deure, an account of Hinduism, using authentic Puranic texts as sources. He described both the mythology of Hinduism and its temple architecture. A few years later Pietro della Valle published a relatively accurate account of some Hindu icons, offering the novel remark that “I hold for certain that all these so monstrous figures have secretly some more rational significations, though expressed in this uncouth manner.” In a general sense this conjecture mirrors contemporary endeavors to make sense of Egyptian hieroglyphics. At last an effort was underway to acknowledge (if not fully understand) the many-armed and multi-faceted images.

The Enlightenment Spurs New Approaches.

Under the aegis of the European Enlightenment the comparative study of religion grew apace in the latter half of the eighteenth century; published illustrations of Indian images became more accurate, and attempts were made to analyze and comment on them. Interest was iconographic rather than aesthetic. In 1786 the English antiquary Richard Payne Knight shrewdly suggested that the gods’ “many heads and limbs” were deployed “to express their various attributes. and extensive operation,” thus addressing directly one of the major impediments to Western appreciation.

Another serious obstacle was the overtly erotic element in much of Hindu art, as seen in the display of a phallic image, the lingam, as the most sacred form of Śiva, the most popular deity in southern India. European commentators were eventually able to assimilate this element by comparing it with the erotic religious art of their own classical antiquity. In the late eighteenth century they applied a syncretistic approach by amalgamating Śiva with Dionysus, Bacchus, and the Egyptian god Osiris. Rather than accepting it at face value, Europeans advanced an allegorical interpretation of Indian erotic art to match the symbolic exegesis of such erotic Biblical texts as the Song of Solomon. Influenced by the French Enlightenment and its anticlericalism, some thinkers gave Hindu eroticism a positive valuation, in marked contrast with their nineteenth-century successors.

Toward the end of the eighteenth-century several factors serve to foster European interest in Indian civilization.40 One was the discovery of the antiquity of Sanskrit, India’s sacred language, and its philological affinity with European speech; for a long time it was thought that European tongues were in fact descended from Sanskrit, and this implied, to the European mind, that a very ancient Indian civilization must have existed on a high plane, only to degenerate over the ages to the pitiful condition of the country as they then found it. European literati developed a strong interest in Sanskrit literature and some of them learned the difficult language themselves.

Another shaping factor was the rise of interest among European in their own medieval art and architecture, an interest that ultimately was to help free critics from the confining habit of evaluating all art by comparing it to the supposed perfection of classical Greece. However, this appreciation was initially restricted to advanced circles. When the parallel between medieval and Indian works was first introduced, it was in the interest of disparagement. Le Gentil de la Galasière, a member of the French academy of sciences, spent eight years in India and published his observation in 1779, concluding that the highly sculpturally ornamented south Indian temple towers (called gopuras) were actually Gothic, revealing “the Indian ignorance of design.” The Frenchman stated that the gopuram sculptures “are exactly similar in taste to those which are preserved in our Gothic churches, and belong to the times which we call barbaric and Gothic.” Europeans were still a century away from considering Indian art on its own terms.
A third intellectual force which heavily influenced European perspectives on Indian antiquities was the eighteenth-century assumption, rooted in Biblical history, that all nations derived from a single original society, and that the arts were invented by the first nation. This led to a heated intellectual debate over who came first and spread what to whom. Some theorists (notably Voltaire) regarded India as the source of both Egyptian and Greek art, while others supposed Greece, China, and Egypt to have brought art to India. Yet the classicist Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who reoriented the study of art in the West in the 1760s, simply ignored any Indian contribution to its development. This controversy was related to a debate over which came first in architecture, simplicity or ornamentation, and which was “higher.” The same gopuras which de la Glasière labeled “gothic” were also widely considered to be pyramidal; hence, so it was maintained, they necessarily related historically to the pyramids of Egypt and were no doubt millennia old. In fact, the oldest gopuram dates to the eight-century and the most impressive ones were not finished until the seventeenth-century. Had they ventured just a bit further into India’s southern interior, Europeans could have watched them under construction.

Winckelmann to Hegel: the Static Image of Indian Art.
The first systematic evaluation of the historical development of Indian art came in 1782 from Pierre Sonnerat, who opined that in India “the arts have made little or no progress.” For this, he blamed despotic governments (this may have been a slap at certain European regimes as well), the hot climate, and innate Indian conservatism. In this Sonnerat was influenced by Winckelmann, who contrasted the continuous progress of Western art with what he saw as the fossilized state of “Oriental” art. Sonnerat also gave a considered aesthetic criticism of Indian art, though it was almost uniformly negative. “Painting is, and ever will be, in its infancy with the Indians,” he wrote. “They do not understand the chiaro obscuro, the objects in their pictures have no relief, and theyare ignorant of perspective... In a word, their best artists are no more than bad colourists.” Indian statuary was “badly designed and worse executed,” and Indian architecture was “subject to no rules.”
Two years later William Hunter discerned an evolution (or devolution) in Indian art from ancient “simplicity” to “those monstrous figures” constructed after “both the taste and the mythology of the people began to be corrupted.” Hunter based his estimate of the age of particular sites on this scheme of his.
Meanwhile, European aesthetic trends favoring the “sublime” and the “picturesque” helped provide new standards by which to measure non-classical art, including that of India.
Interest in Indian art continued to grow as the nineteenth-century opened. British colonization, which had began in 1640, had advanced far enough to make much of India secure for wealthy travelers, thus bringing “the brightest jewel in the British crown” into the orbit of the Grand Tour, exposing many more upper-class Europeans directly to Indian art. Printed illustrations were also improving; Thomas and William Daniells used aquatints to provide voluminous and (for once) highly accurate views of Indian architecture from all over the subcontinent in widely circulated volumes published between 1795 and 1808.

At the more formal academic level, Sir William Jones, orientalist and founder (1784) of the Asiatic Society in Bengal, encouraged the study of Indian art on an equal basis with history and science.41 The nabobs, who had made fabulous fortunes in India, sometimes emulated Indian architecture in the country seats they erected on returning home to England. Though the fashion never rivaled chinoiserie, other Indian-inspired buildings, eventually including movie houses in the United States, appeared elsewhere. However, the most ubiquitous architectural export from India, though a generic one, was the humble bungalow.42
Up to this point, for all the vigorous debate over India’s artistic heritage, virtually no interest was shown in the ongoing construction of Indian temples and their associated artworks, sometimes under the very noses of the scholars.  This neglect occurred even though the contemporary constructions were stylistically in line with the venerable antiquities which were busily being described and evaluated, and about which great mysteries remained. 

Encased in their aloofness, none of the Britons seem to have thought of interviewing contemporary Indian architects or sculptors in order to obtain information on traditional forms and style. Indian painting received very little attention, the ancient cave murals having not yet been discovered and contemporary production being ignored.
A. L. Millin’s Dictionnaire des beaux-arts (1806) seems to have contained the first discussion of Indian art without ethnography or archaeology. About three years later a certain F. Dangerfield harkened back to the devolution concept in describing the painting of the Bagh caves as “far surpassing anything in the art which the natives of India now possess.” A step forward was Louis Langlès’ two-volume compendium of Indian art, Monuments anciens et modernes de l’Indoustan, published in 1811 and 1821.
Following in Pierre Sonnerat’s footsteps, James Mill’s The History of British India (1817) contained a section on the arts in which Mill, a utilitarian, echoed Sonnerat’s belief that despotic native Indian governments had kept art from flourishing (though in Mill’s case this may have been an argument for colonialism). Mill held that Indian art was languishing in a primitive state, “unnatural, offensive and not infrequently disgusting.” Mill ceded an exceptional quality to Indian weaving, but unreservedly condemned the country’s painting, calling it “peculiarly devoid of grace and expression without a knowledge of perspective, and by consequence of all those finer and nobler parts of the art of painting.” While it is true that sculpture has generally predominated over painting through most of Indian history, the perceptions of Mill and his contemporaries were no doubt influenced by the lack of surviving paintings from the periods which produced the sculpture.
Mill’s dismissal influenced the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, who had little real knowledge of Indian art, but expatiated on it at length within the framework of his wider theories. Stigmatizing Indian art as static and archaic, Hegel’s Eurocentric judgments tainted discourse for the rest of the century.

Discovery and Investigation in British India.
A year after Mill’s history was published, the great Buddhist complex at Sanchi was discovered, and a year after that (1819) a British hunting party found the elaborately painted Buddhist cave-temples of Ajanta, memory of which had faded from even the local lore. Thus the history of Indian painting was at a stroke pushed back by a millennium or more, and the Buddhist tradition joined the Hindu one. In fact, contemporaries first thought the cave paintings to be two or three thousand years old. Guided by the prevailing concept of artistic stagnation, the first visitors to Ajanta reasoned that painting of such fine quality had to be at least that old.

Just as such outlandish guesswork was being purveyed as scientific reasoning, however, help arrived in the person of William Erskine, an engineer with an interest in iconography, who suggested that study of the major Indian religious traditions would shed light on the mysterious antiquities being discovered by the British in increasing numbers as Britain continued to expand her Indian domains. (Erskine himself rendered the first scholarly account of Ajanta). Making good use of the work of orientalists in idian sacred literatures, Erskine developed criteria for distinguishing Hindu from Buddhist and Jain art. (This distinction could have been established long before through comparison with the living Buddhist tradition in offshore Ceylon [now Sri Lanka], which lay only a few sea miles away from the major Hindu temple complex at Rameshvaram south of Madras, and which had been colonized by the Portuguese, Dutch and British beginning in the sixteenth century.)
Turning to what was then Hindu India’s most celebrated monument, in 1819 Erskine concluded on the basis of iconography that Elephanta was no more than eight centuries old, not millennia as his predecessors had speculated (later researchers have fixed its date as the sixth century of our era). Erskine suggested examining sculptural and painted icons for certain symbols or attributes in order to identify the deity depicted, and went on to correctly identify the figures at Elephanta. Thus the British engineer opened the door to examination of the deeper meaning of Indian art. He was not, however, immune to the prejudices of his day, oft criticizing Hindu sculpture for relying on such symbols to fix identity rather than “the accurate delineation of a passion”.
The British conquest of India proceeded gradually, spreading from several centers: Madras in the south (1640) and Bombay on the west coast (1668), to which was added Calcutta in 1690. These were the areas where the authority of the decaying Muslim Mughal dynasty, which ruled from Delhi in the north, was absent or weak. Earlier colonial powers had also avoided the Mughals as well as the more southerly interior sultanates (Mysore and Hyderabad), with the Portuguese landing south of Bombay, the Dutch in Ceylon, and the French contesting the same areas as the British. Thus the Europeans had little contact with Mughal art before the nineteenth century. As the major Buddhist sites were also situated in the Mughal north and in north-central India (ruled by the Marathas until British conquest in 1803), Buddhist art did not become known until the 1820 and 1830s.
With the new century came a new fashion in European thought: Romanticism. Romantics looked for the emotional tone of artwork and the response they evoked in the observer. The German Romantics turned to India for examples of their ideals. Friedrich Creuzer’s 1810 book, Symbolik und Mythologie der alter Völker, posted Indian religious symbols as appeals to the unconscious, and he used Indian art as his primary exemplar. Creuzer contrasted the static poses of Hindu art with the action of Greek. Minor English Romantics like J. B. Seely praised Indian art in works like The Wonders of Elora (1824).
In the 1830s the Buddhist statuary of the Gandharan type came to the attention of Europeans, who immediately seized on the discovery to support their favorite theories. Since the northwest Indian Gandharan work appeared to be classically derived (through Alexander and his Hellenistic successors, as was first thought, or through the Roman empire as more recent opinion has held), it was immediately pronounced superior to other Indian art. Not surprisingly, the aesthetic value of Indian art rose in European eyes, now that it had apparently acquired a Greek pedigree, at least as far as the Buddhist branch was concerned.
Noting an absence of images of the Buddha in various supposedly early Buddhist art works, scholars posited that early Buddhism was strictly an iconic, using symbols only to represent the Buddha in depictions of scenes from his life. Only after the fall of the Mauryans, in connection with an evolution in the perception of the nature of the Buddha, was this artistic taboo broken. This theory became so accepted that it was repeated without qualification in standard texts. Susan L. Huntington, however, demonstrated in 1990 that the aniconic theory had kept Westerners from perceiving the actual subject of certain works which depicted pilgrimage sites rather than moments in the life of the Buddha.43 Huntington, while not demolishing the aniconic theory altogether, persuasively argued that preoccupation with what the scholars thought ought to be there kept them from seeing what actually was there. As we have seen, such situations have often recurred in the history of Western writing on Indian art.
A major step forward in integrating Indian art with the culture which produced it came with the posthumous publication in 1834 of the Essay on the Architecture of the Hindus by Ram Raz, a south Indian who ranks as the first native art historian. Raz relied heavily on translations of the Mānasāra and other Sanskrit texts on architecture and art. Unfortunately, his pioneering efforts were not followed up with further investigation into the native record.
Universal art history was becoming fashionable, and Franz Kugler’s 1842 Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte devoted considerable attention to India. Major European museums began collections of Indian art in the latter half of the century, with the best ones located in London and Copenhagen. These in turn stimulated the need for comprehensive descriptions of the history of Indian art, many of which were published between 1874 and 1927.
The writers of these books faced the task of developing a theoretical and chronological framework to relate one style to another and upon which to base aesthetic evaluations. Two camps developed: an “archaeological” group (led by Henry Cole and James Fergusson) which upheld classical art as perfect and Indian as therefore inferior, and a “transcendental” group (led by Ernest Binfield Havell and Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy) which for the first time valued Indian art at its best as equal to the classical model.
Established in 1865 by Sir Alexander Cunningham, the Archaeological Survey of India did a great deal to uncover Indian artistic monuments. Cunningham, however, was more interested in inscriptions than in artistic considerations. James Burgess, his successor, declined to consult Indian sources even though these were readily available.44   

Henry Cole’s 1874 Catalogue of the Objects of Indian Art Exhibited in the South Kensington Museum contained the first systematic history of Indian art. Cole accepted Cunningham’s periodization of Brahmanical, Buddhist, and Muhammadan eras (no Hindu!); favored the simple Buddhist art over the ornamented Hindu, and deprecated Indian painting. Cole reasoned that since the artwork at the Buddhist site of Sanchi (completed in the first century BCE) was so excellent, it had to be derived from Greeks and maybe actually built by them. Cole attributed the rise of Indian art to a social revolt against the Aryans, who had instituted the Brahmanical religion; one product of this revolt was Buddhism.

Two years later James Fergusson’s work, The History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, praised Indian architecture as superior to Western, but like many before him the author saw it marked by a history of continuous decline. In contrast to Cole, Fergusson felt the decline began with the rejection of the Aryan Buddha by the Hindus. Fergusson had one major problem: how to explain the artistic peak of Amaravati, a site dated later than Bharhut and Sanchi? He “solved” this problem by reaching into his magic hat and hypothesizing Greek influence.
Fergusson gave primacy to architectural evidence for reconstructing history, writing that “distinct historical assertions have to be put aside whenever evidence of style is found to contradict them... unless good cause can b shown to the contrary.” He had no interest in sculpture, believing it did not vary from one age to another. For a long time Fergusson’s views dominated the field.
A final withering blast from the Cole school came in an 1889 article from Vincent Smith on the Greek influence over Indian art, which flatly asserted that Indians were incapable of producing great art on their own. Smith later published the first historical account of Mughal painting with his 1908 History of Fine Art in India and Ceylon. At that time virtually nothing was known of the achievements of Indian painting between Ajanta (fifth century) and the Mughals (late sixteenth century).
The history of Mughal monumental art, with its great forts, mosques, and tombs, properly belongs to Islam (see below). However, British scholars were mindful of the role of the Raj as the successor to the imperial Mughals--and in any event the monuments adorning such cities as Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri were too prominent to be ignored. E. B. Havell, H. Hosten and others canvased whether the Taj Mahal might best be understood as an import from the West--with a possible italian architect--or whether it required analysis in the light of “Indian constants.” In the latter view its layout might continue Buddhist stupa plans, while its bulbous dome could stem from the ascending profile of the sikharas of Hindu temples. It was no accident that this emphasis on the continuity of the Indian genius, which has found an echo in later Indian writers, came into prominence in the early years of the present century, as Indian nationalism sought to forge a unified ideology for the independent state that was to supplant British rule.
The long-overdue study of Indian iconography, so critical to the interpretation of sculpture and painting, commenced with Albert Grünwedel’s Buddhist Art in India (1893). T. A. Gopinatha Rao followed this up with his four-volume Elements of hindu Iconography in 1914. These efforts to systematize imagery based on religious themes owed a considerable (though little acknowledged) debt to the typologies of Christian iconography worked out in previous decades by such French scholars as Didron and Mâle.
In addition to these contributions of scholars, changes in the built environment of India began to show a growing recognition of the interplay of cultural currents. After the suppression of the Mutiny in 1857, British architects and engineers designed large government buildings and monuments in the Anglo-Indian style, a sometimes garish mixture of Indian motifs and Victorian overall composition. Such structures were less common in Britain itself, where the Indian influence tends, when it occurs at all, to be too slight to be readily evident.

Aesthetic Reassessment.
With the twentieth century, the tide of European opinion on the merits of Indian art began to turn. In 1908 E. B. Havell published Indian Sculpture and Painting, followed three years later by The Ideals of Indian Art. Havell argues that archaeologists had misled the public on aesthetic questions involving Indian art. He denounced the forced imposition of foreign influences on the best works of Indian art, insisting that this art had to be regarded from an Indian perspective. The measure of art was not its objective representation of the external world (the standard hitherto applied by all Europeans, and which had produced such consternation when confronted with the many arms and heads of Hindu statuary) but rather its conveyance of “the Noumenon within the phenomenon,” the inner meaning. Havell argued on the basis of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy that since the material world was māyā or illusory from the Indian standpoint the naturalistic representation of it was irrelevant. Havell made ideas rather than technical innovation the key factor in changing styles, urging “the fundamental principle upon which all art-history must be based, that as art is primarily subjective and not objective, we must always seek for the origin of the great art-schools of the world... in the thoughts which created them all.”
In 1910 the debate opened by Havell burst upon the wide public, touched off by Sir George Birdwood’s widely-quoted statement on the Javanese Buddha displayed at the Royal Society of Art in London: “The senseless similitude, by its immemorial fixed pose, is nothing more than an uninspired brazen image, vacuously squinting down its nose to its thumbs, knees and toes. A boiled suet pudding would serve equally well as a symbol of passionate purity and serenity of soul.” Birdwood was firmly convinced that sculpture and painting as fine arts were unknown in South Asia and its dependencies.

Correctly perceiving that Birdwood’s comments on the Javanese Buddha were an attack on Indian and Indian-derived art in general, a throng of prominent English artists and critics organized a ringing defense in the form of a letter to The Times which not only characterized the best of Indian art as “lofty” but went on to laud the “living tradition of art” which “is still showing its vitality and its capacity for the interpretation of indian life and thought” and “will never fail to command our admiration and sympathy so long as it remains true to itself.” The signers also urged “organic development from the national art of the past.”
This turnabout in opinion must be seen against a background of intellectual revolt against Western materialism which as a reaction often produced a high valuation of (idealized) Indian spirituality. The virtues of the latter were gathered from texts and from visiting gurus rather than from detailed observation of the actual life of the Indian people. (The problem of explaining discrepancies between the Sanskrit texts, especially on iconography, and the diversity of actual examples has yet to be satisfactorily explored.)
A major advance in dating technique came from Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil, who went about the problem methodically, first establishing a typology of styles by consulting contemporary traditional architects, then examining sites datable through inscriptions to establish correlations of style with period, finally classifying all south Indian architecture chronologically. His results appeared in Archéologie du sud de l’Inde in 1914. He then proceeded similarly with sculpture.
Following Havell, early twentieth-century Indian art history was dominated by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, of mixed British-Ceylonese ancestry, who had originally urged an anthropological approach but then abandoned it.45 In keeping with the Ruskinian principles animating the arts and crafts movement with which he was allied, Coomaraswamy compared Indian not with Greek but with medieval European art. In both traditions, he maintained, neither self-expression nor the realization of beauty is the objective.
Integrating Indian sources (he read several South Asian languages), Coomaraswamy maintained that Indian art reflected a unified conception of life, unlike Western art, with its subject-object dichotomy. Art is a form of yoga, allowing the direct influence of the transcendent on the artist. Coomaraswamy’s notion of art as an “uncaused spiritual activity” has been criticized as begging questions of style and taste. The question remains as to what criteria the Indians themselves maintained.

Mughal Painting and Hindu Architecture Examined.

Coomaraswamy also concerned himself with Mughal and Mughal-influenced (Rajput) painting, surviving largely in the form of miniatures. Since his time, considerable advances have been made in connoisseurship, dating and localizing the various groups of miniatures. In 1924 Hermann Goetz worked out a methodology, since widely used, for dating Mughal paintings by close examination of the subjects’ dress.46 In the same year Percy Brown published his Indian Painting Under the Mughals. Ivan Stchoukine’s 1929 La Peinture Indienne a l’époque des Grands Moghols became a classic work on the subject, emphasizing the native element, and with the advantage of newly discovered works tracing the development of north Indian painting from Ajanta onwards.

The first study of the Rajput style of painting was undertaken by Coomaraswamy, who placed it between the early thirteenth century and the middle of the nineteenth. This style, named because it was usually practiced under patronage from the Rajput princes of northwest India, was divided into two groups, Rājasthānī and Pahāṛī. The latter was outline in Karl Khandalavala’s 1958 Pahāṛī Miniature Painting; the author dated it from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries and localized it to the Panjab hill country. Five years earlier W. G. Archer had developed a history of Pahāṛī painting in Indian Paintings from the Panjab Hills

Addressing the inner meaning of the Indian temple, Coomaraswamy developed the theme of temple architecture as expressing images of the cosmos, the god’s body, and his house. He directed attention to the values of the architects and the meaning read into it by contemporaries rather than the aesthetic sense of Europeans.

These themes were taken up by Stella Kramrisch, born in Moravia in 1898 and trained by Joseph Strzygowski at the University of Vienna. Going to india immediately after World War I, she resided there for most of her adult life. With the aid of original texts, her now classic The Hindu Temple (Calcutta University, 1946) offered a holistic interpretation of the temple as a symbolic image of the universe.  Kramrisch emphasized “the integrity of architectural forms, sculptures, myths, rituals, and metaphysical conceptions, as they are visualized in the eye and mind of the worshipper.”47

Another breakthrough came when the Indian architect Prahashankar began publishing previously orally transmitted traditional texts on architecture in the Gujarati language, beginning in 1960. Architecture was a caste prerogative and its practitioners had been enjoined to secrecy. Due to the extreme conservatism of Indian culture and its emphasis on strictly following tradition, it is possible in many cases to use contemporary evidence to shed light on the mysteries of ancient works.48

Coomaraswamy also pioneered the detailed study of Hindu iconography (in Yaksas, published in 1928 and 1931), laying out the historical development of motifs in a manner which also proved very helpful for dating purposes. This was followed in 1941 by Jitendra Nath Banerjea’s Development of Hindu Iconography, which was the first to study the general historical development of Hindu iconography. In recent years paleography, the study of changes in the style of inscriptions, has been used to date associated works of art.

Extending the Chronological Parameters.

During the 1920s knowledge of Indian civilization was pushed back millennia by excavations undertaken at two sites of a highly developed, literate, and artistic, but prehistoric empire: Mohenjo-Daro and Harappā in the Indus River valley of northwest India (now Pakistan). Items from this culture had been coming to light since the construction of a railway in the region in the 1850s, but it was only after World War I that the Archaeological Survey of India could undertake systematic work following modern criteria of stratification and recording. This work laid bare the ruins of these and other remarkable cities of the highly organized Indus Valley civilization, which flourished from ca. 2250 to ca. 1750 BCE over a vast expanse of western India. The seals, bearing inscriptions which have not ben deciphered, evidence trading links to Mesopotamia and southern India. Indus Valley seals usually contain finely-worked engravings of animals and sometimes gods, human figures, and trees. Several small sculptures in bronze and terracotta anticipate themes found in later Hindu art, and some of their pottery was delicately painted.49

After independence was achieved in 1947, Indian leaders realized that a major challenge facing the new state was construction, not just of industrial structures and transportation, but also of residential facilities.  After the partition of British India into the two nations of India and Pakistan in 1947, the former British province of Punjab was also split between India and Pakistan. The Indian state of Punjab needed a new capital city to replace Lahore, which became part of Pakistan during the partition. After several schemes to enlarge existing cities were found to be unfeasible, the decision to construct a new metropolis was undertaken. The Chandigarh project quickly assumed prime significance, because of the city's strategic location as well as the personal interest of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. The French-Swiss Le Corbusier was in fact the second architect of the city, after the initial master plan was prepared by the American architect-planner Albert Mayer.  Yet it is generally agreed that it was Le Corbusier who, as designer of the main government buildings, including the Parliament Building, the High Court, and the Secretariat, left his stamp on the city.  In January 1999 an international conference was held in celebration of the city’s fiftieth anniversary; the acts of the conference were published in Chandigarh in 2006.50

Among the Indian architects taking their inspiration from Le Corbusier are J. V. Joshi and Charles Mark Correa.  Subsequently, modern Indian architects have sought to blend advanced European technology and native traditions, with sometimes controversial results.51

Knowledge of traditional indian buildings has been greatly advanced by the progress of a multivolume project, the Encyclopedia of Indian Temple Architecture, which Michael W. Meister and Madhusudan A. Dhaky began in 1983 at the Center for Art and Archaeology of the American Institute of Indian Studies at Varanasi (Benares). The study of Buddhist art is also continuing.52

Unlike open-ended Western art history, discussion in the West of the history of Indian art usually ends with the consolidation of British colonial rule in the mid-nineteenth century, when European influence became dominant in the areas of painting and secular architecture. Yet traditional temples and sculptures have continued to be fashioned down to the present. Certainly Indian history did not end a century and a half ago, and Indian art has not remained frozen since then. Yet apart from architecture, the development of modern art in India has yet to find a historian in the West.



Starting from Arabia, the Muslim conquest of the Near East and North Africa was swift: Persia and Iraq (633-51); Syria (637); Egypt ((639); and North Africa (652).  The first century of Islam saw a lively cultural interchange between the established Byzantine culture and the emergent civilization of Islam.53  The architecture and mosaics of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (completed 691) are in fact almost wholly Byzantine in character.  Much other evidence from this period of cultural coexistence, especially in the realm of the minor arts, has come to light from archaeological investigations.

With the shift of the capital of the caliphate from Damascus to Baghdad in 750, Islam became more oriented to the east.  The failure of the two sieges of Constantinople (in 64-78 and 717-18) put a stop to Muslim expansion in that direction. For their part, the Byzantines began to direct the bulk of their energies to the north, to the Slavic countries. As the Mediterranean became a Muslim lake, Western Christendom also focused elsewhere, especially in the direction of the north and east.

These divergences set the scene for many misunderstandings between the two civilizations.  Since this section is largely concerned with Western attitudes to Muslim culture and art, we focus on misapprehensions stemming from the Christian side.

At first there were very few Western Christians who could read Arabic, so the content of the Qur’an remained closed to them.  As they became better informed, however, bewilderment set in.  Islam could not be simply dismissed as some alien intrusion for the reason that many motifs of Jewish and Christian origin had found an honored place in the Qur’an and in other Muslim writings. How to deal with the religion, then?  The solution was to portray Islam as a heretical aberration, an illegitimate offshoot of Christianity.  Christians sometimes went farther, perceiving Muslim as gross heathens or even fiends acting under diabolical inspiration.
A persistent, but false claim asserted that Muslims, unlike Christians, were idol worshipers.54  In fact, Islam discouraged all figural images, a ban enforced with particular rigor in religious precincts. In 726 the Byzantine empire sought to enforce a similar proscription--in the form of iconoclasm--in its own dominions. In the end, this violent effort to get rid of Christian religious images failed, and the Christian libel of Muslims as adorers of images may perhaps be regarded as a projection of collective guilt at the continuing apparent disregard of the Second Commandment among Christians.
Despite a continuing pattern of prejudice, not all Europeans were hostile to Islam. In 1076 pope Gregory VII wrote to a Muslim prince in Algeria as follows: “there is a charity which we owe to each other more than to other peoples because we recognize and confess one sole God, although in different ways, and we praise and worship Him every day as creator and ruler of the world.”55 As Western Christians began to settle in the Middle East following the success of the first Crusade in 1096, many expressed fear that the newcomers were “going native,” adopting local customs in the absence of continuing contact with their countries of origin. Some scholars even developed a positive understanding of Muhammad himself. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Samuel Johnson opined that “[t]here are two objects of curiosity--the Christian world and the Mahometan world. All the rest may be considered barbarous.”56

Artistic Contacts and Perceptions.

During the Middle Ages the most intense theater of Christian-Muslim contact was the Iberian peninsula. The first great European epic, the eleventh-century Chanson de Roland, reflects the context of Charlemagne’s campaign against the Moors in the Spanish March. Artistic interchanges were continuous in the early Middle Ages.57 As the Christians advanced southward to reclaim the two-thirds of the peninsula that had fallen to Muslim rule, they encountered ways of life that possessed considerable inherent attraction. Skilled Muslim craftspeople came under Christian control; they created an adaptation of Moorish art, known as Mudéjar, that appealed to Christian tastes. Aspects of this art were to linger in the minor arts and the interior decoration of Spanish buildings for centuries. Perhaps because this art was so familiar, the Spanish and Portuguese felt little need to analyze and chronicle its sources. And indeed the art itself gradually lost its cachet. The neglect into which the Alhambra in Granada had fallen by the nineteenth century is notorious.

Objects of Islamic origin reached other European countries by sea transport across the Mediterranean.58 These included textiles and carpets, the latter being particularly prized as seen by their frequent appearance in European paintings. These objects gained easy entry, not only by virtue of their obvious quality, but also because the decor generally lacked imagery that could be regarded as specifically Islamic, consisting as it generally did of animals, plants, and intricate interlace. Even when these objects bore religious inscriptions in Arabic, the were interpreted as mere decorative adjuncts. Attempts by Europeans to copy Islamic textiles indicate their appeal. Pottery and glass were also prized, though since they were so easily broken, they tended to enjoy shorter period of esteem, unlike some of the silks which were hoarded for centuries in church treasuries. Miniature painting was the last Islamic art to capture Western attention. By the middle of the seventeenth century Rembrandt had accumulated a collection of more than two dozen Mughal and other Indian paintings; he made copies of them in his own style.
Depictions in paintings by such major European artists as Jan van Eyck and Hans Holbein the Younger of Islamic carpets show how highly these were prized. eventually a profusion of carpets came to be a commonplace of Western literary evocations--poems, stories, and novels--of Islamic life.59 The idea of the carpet also lent itself to various metaphorical usages, notably in the idea of the “figure in the carpet,” which suggest the elusiveness of meaning in a world that has become so complex as almost to seem undecipherable.60 Significantly, in his well-known story Henry James writes of “a complex figure in a Persian carpet.”
However, it was not any particular category of products that came to be seen to be the key to Islamic art, but a pervasive design motif, the arabesque. Sinuous, linear, and intricate, arabesques were particularly striking in imported goods. From the sixteenth century onwards they were widely imitated in the ornamental patterns of Western European designers. The way for this adoption was cleared by the appearance of grotesque ornament in the fifteenth century. The name derives from the grotte, or underground vaults in which remnants of this sideline of Roman ornament were found. The most famous examplars were in the ruins of Nero’s Domus Aurea in Rome, utilized by Raphael in his 1516 Vatican decorations.61 The grotesques consisted of fantastic animals, including hybrid creatures, arranged in a pattern of lines and candelabra-like forms. Renaissance adoption of these models was not without irony, for they correspond to a form of artistic license condemned in the opening lines of Horace’s aesthetic manifesto, the “Ars Poetica,” and in a passage in the seventh book of Vitruvius. Thus the use of these decorations constituted a way of “testing the limits” of classical decorum. The adoption of these Roman extravagances provided an opening for an exotic extravagance, the arabesque.62 The two decorative modes appear together in a 1546 French translation of Francesco Colonna’s Hypnoerotomachia Poliphili, which mentions colorful pillars whose faces are adorned with “candelabras, grotesques, feuillages, arabesques” and so forth.63 Other sources indicate that the grotesques included animals and human forms, while the arabesques were linear, plant-like designs; hence their association in this passage with leaves (feuillages”). The paralleling of these two motifs, gently subversive as they were of Renaissance norms of ideal beauty and propriety, shows how the Western reception of a foreign motif, in this case the arabesque, tended to go hand in hand with a Western one. The “internal” innovation prepared a climate for the reception of the exotic motif, which would otherwise be less likely to make its way.
Reports by travelers and ambassadors in the seventeenth century generated an increasing interest in the Ottoman Empire.64 This led to a vogue for turqueries, generally expressed in entertainments, as shown by the Turkish scene Molière introduced into “Le Bourgeois gentilhomme” (1670) at the request of Louis XIV. In 1704-07 Antoine Galland brought out the first (French) translation of The Arabian Nights. Although there was considerable importation of ceramics, turqueries never attained the popularity of chinoiseries. Half a century later Sir William Chambers, whose Chinese proclivities have already been encountered, designed an “Alhambra” and a “Mosque” to complement his pagoda at Kew. These were pallid reflections of original Islamic buildings; a better understanding was to come only when more visual materials were available. An old theory, supported by Sir Christopher Wren among others held that Gothic architecture was “Saracenic”; this confusion may have helped “Mohammadan” architecture to achieve some popularity in an era of the incipient Gothic revival.
An Ottoman embassy to the court of the child king Louis XV in 1720-21 points up a growing pattern of inequality of influence.65 Mehmet Efendi and his retinue toured French buildings and fortifications, factories and craft centers, as well as educational institutions in order to report on things that might be suitable for adoption in the eastern Empire. In France the presence of the embassy triggered only a brief fashion for Turquerie, but in the Ottoman empire it stimulated the reproduction of European palace designs and the establishment of the first official printing press. To a large extent, European customs were identified with religious minorities in the Ottoman Empire, regarded with suspicion. Because of the rigidity of Ottoman class structure, reception of the Occidental innovations was confined to the upper strata.
A pattern of selective attention long delayed the systematic study of Ottoman art and architecture. It need scarcely be added that this neglect no longer prevails: for example, the Ninth International Congress of Turkish art, held in Istanbul in September 1991, featured papers by almost two hundred scholars, both Turkish and foreign.   

British expansion in India produced illustrated albums showing Mughal architecture. William Hodges’ Select Views of India, a series of 48 aquatints issued in parts between 1785 and 1788 included both Muslim and Hindu buildings. This was followed by an even more elaborate production, the Oriental Scenery of Thomas and William Daniells (1795-1808); these prints capitalized on the English vogue for the picturesque. Then came the first major English building in the Islamic style: Sezincote, a domed house built in 1804-05 for Sir William Cockerell, who wished to have a reminiscence of his Indian service. A decade later came the Royal Pavilion created by John Nash for the Prince Regent at Brighton. A Disneylandish Indo-Muslim extravaganza outside, the Pavillion was Chinese on the inside.

Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt in 1798 focused attention mainly on the monuments of the great age of the pharaohs, rather than the constructions of the latter-day Arabic-speaking inhabitants. The beginnings of the Greek agitation for independence shifted attention to the Balkan dominions of the Ottoman Empire, while the French occupation of Algeria in 1830 opened up North Africa. The customs, and sometimes, the architecture, of all these lands were depicted by a variety of French and English artists--the “Orientalists.”66

It was not necessary even to depart from Christian Europe to visit the Alhambra in Granada. British travelers, such as James Cavanagh Murphy and Sir John Carr, began to extol it just after the turn of the century; then more famous writers, above all, Victor Hugo and Washington Irving weighed in with their romantic evocations. A better visual understanding became possible with the 1835 Sketches...of the Alhambra of John Frederick Lewis and especially the great work of Owen Jones: Plans, Elevations, Sections, and Details of the Alhambra (two volumes, 1842-45). Jones, who was shortly to make a name for himself as a design reformer in England, concentrated on trying to capture the colors of the great Granadine complex. For his part, Lewis went on to make a specialty of paintings of contemporary Islamic life which sought to capture the experience of eastern light, color, and pattern.

The Turn Towards Scholarship.

During the Middle Ages European desire to learn Arabic was largely motivated by the desire to convert Muslims. The Arabic interests of Raymond Lull and Guillaume Postel nonetheless laid the foundations for oriental studies, which were refined and secularized during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and then given flesh in the following century, when travel and residence in Islamic countries became easier.67
A manifestation of the new capacity to respond to detail appears in an extraordinary textured account of the life of a city: An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (London, 1836). This book, by Edward William Lane, a reclusive scholar and lexicographer, captures the daily life of Cairo before the modernization (and overcrowding) that Western technology wrought. The revised edition, prepared by Lane’s nephew, Edward Lane Poole, contains an account of “Arabian Architecture,” which--though mistakenly arguing for unity of style-offers valid historical information. In this it differs from the continuing production of picture books noted above, with gorgeous plates but little in the way of reliable text.
A real advance was The Art of the Saracens in Egypt (London, 1886) by Stanley Lane-Poole, the son of Edward Lane Poole. The author says that he chose the adjective Saracenic because not all the art of countries ruled by Muslims was produced by Muslim artists, a point that should be remembered today when this art tends to be identified too exclusively with some elusive “spirit of Islam.” On his choice of subject matter, Lane-Poole remarks “the mosques of Cairo furnish a fuller, longer, and more continuous record of the arts employed in their construction an decoration than any other series of monuments in a single Muhammedan city, and the simple lines and restrained decoration of the Egyptian artists exhibit to perfection the essential character of the Saracenic style.” Lane-Poole emphasized the importance of inscriptions in determining the dates of buildings, which must not be simply deduced by mere stylistic intuition.

These studies in Egypt reflect a growing awareness that for some centuries Cairo had ranked as the cultural pivot of the Islamic world. The rise of this Egyptocentrism coincided with growing European political pressure, culminating in the establishment of a British protectorate in 1883.68 French commercial and cultural enterprises were also important.69 This Cairo focus continued in the work of the great architectural historian K. A. C. Creswell, about whom more below.

Although British and French preoccupation with the Middle East has been allotted a central role by critics of Orientalism such as Edward Said, the coming of age of the study of Islamic civilization was actually achieved by Central European scholars emerging between 1870 and 1914. The interest of German-speaking scholars, though sometimes ascribed to preoccupation with the “Eastern Question” occasioned by the gradual weakening of the Ottoman empire, had earlier sources. An extraordinary gathering of lyric poems based on Persian and other eastern models, Goethe’s Westöstlicher Diwan, counts as both a symptom and a stimulus for this development. At the same time the prolific autodidact and traveler Josef von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856) produced accessible prose narratives; he also started the first specialist periodical, the Fundgraben des Orients (1809-18). Then came the works of true Arabic philology. Aloys Sprenger produced his Das Leben und die Lehre des Mohammed in 1861-65, inaugurating the critical tradition of the study of the Prophet’s life that has continued to this day. The Hungarian Ignaz Goldziher (1850-1921) set a standard for scope and accuracy that has never been surpassed.70 As result of the activity of these and other scholars, there were, by the end of the century Islamicist chairs in many Central European universities and a dozen specialist journals.71
In order to perfect their knowledge of Arabic dialects, dedicated philologists had undertaken arduous field work, subjecting themselves to all the hardships and dangers of bedouin life.  Some of these scholars hit upon the idea of also studying inscriptions and ruined monuments.  A representative figure of this type is the Moravian Aloys Musil (1868-1944), a cousin of the great novelist Robert Musil.72  As an impoverished theology student Musil made his way several times to Palestine, where he deliberately strayed from the beaten path.  Emulating such earlier “go native” travelers as Johann Ludwig Burckhardt and Charles Doughty, he joined the bedouin in journeys across the wastes of what is now Jordan.  Musil was rewarded with a spectacular find, the deserted Ummayad palace of Qusayr Amra.  HIs weighty publication of 1907 riveted Austrian and German art history, which was not only at its peak in general terms but had begun particularly to address the question of postclassical art in both its Byzantine and Islamic forms. 
This fruitful dialogue among Orientalists continued for some time, as seen in the achievements of the noted Swiss epigrapher Max van Berchem (1863-1921).  Contemporaries who excelled in the archaeological approach were Friedrich Sarre (1865-1945) and Ernst Herzfeld (1879-1948).  Through the vigorous activity of these and other gifted Central European scholars a remarkable sense of community developed, supported by lively interest in educated circles.

Among the “pure art historians” the pioneer was the incomparable Alois Riegl (1858-1905).  He first became interested in oriental carpets--thanks to his post in a museum of decorative arts--and then, more broadly, in the motifs that appeared on them.In his Stilfragen of 1893, Riegl constructed a genealogy of the arabesque that led back to the classical acanthus and ultimately to the Egyptian lotus.73  These origins served to situate a major motif of Islamic ornament in an overall process that, while perhaps diminishing its uniqueness, made it seem part of the world history of art.  Even so, Riegl discerned two distinct features of Islamic arabesque: its geometrical rather than organic quality, and its capacity for limitless extension.  The latter feature was later renamed the “overall pattern,” a concept that has proved useful in analyzing many non-Western styles.

Recent scholarship on the arabesque has tended to focus on its dual role in the early Islamic period as both an indicator of continuity (significant links with sixth-century Byzantine art have been detected), as well as a vehicle of increasing cultural independence, the consequence of the split of the late-antique world into two parts: a Muslim and a Christian one.74

In fact these questions lay at the heart of the Viennese concern with early Islamic art.  Some scholars, following Riegl, saw Islamic art as the heir of later Roman production.  Another major Viennese savant, Josef Strzygowski, located the ultimate source of fruitful change in such eastern lands as Syria, Anatolia, and Armenia.  Common to all these writers was an awareness of a vast continuum, embracing Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic art.  More recently, with the growth of specialized studies, these larger horizons have been obscured.

For a long time Islamic archaeology lagged behind that of pharaonic Egypt, Sumeria, Assyria, and Palestine--the latter of special interest because of its status as the incubator of the Hebrew Bible.  Since most Muslim cities were still inhabited it was not easy to excavate them; and this restriction went double for holy sites such as mosques and tombs, where even the suggestion that they might be profaned by unbelievers triggered riots.  Still available, though, were some imposing ruins.  German interest in Palestine, for example, led to the excavation of an extraordinary Ummayad palace, at Mshatta in Jordan.  Thanks to the growing closeness between the Kaiser and the Turkish Sultan, the intricate façade reliefs of Mshatta were uncovered and, in 1903, moved to Berlin, where their patterns have continued to fascinate generations of scholars.75  Although Strzygowksi came eventually to focus his attention on Armenia, Iran, and Inner Asia as sources for the creative thrust of the nonclassical tradition, the indefatigable Viennese scholar encourages his students to study Islamic art.  His follower Ernst Diez created what ranks as the first modern survey in his Die Kunst des Islam (Berlin, 1917), though it stressed religious architecture.

 Wealthy collectors concentrated on the minor arts and especially the art of miniatures.  The first adequate account of the latter genre was Fredrik Robert Martin, The Miniature Painters of Persia, India, and Turkey from the 8th to the 18th Century (London, 1912).  A broader study came from the pen of the celebrated literary scholar Sir Thomas Arnold, Painting in Islam (Oxford, 1928).  Islamic portable arts reached a larger public through major exhibitions in Munich (1910) and Paris (1912).  These spectacular displays influenced such modern artists as Vassily Kandinsky and Henri Matisse.76 Moreover, travel to North Africa offered avant-garde artists the opportunity to study Muslim environments as part of a living tradition.
World War I (1914-18) rearranged the map of the Middle East, excluding Turkey from the Arab lands, but opening them to English and French domination.  Keppel Archibald Cameron Creswell (1879-1974) was an officer in the British Army in its Arab campaigns, and in their wake he compiled the information included in a landmark sketch published in 1919 on the chronology of the Muslim monuments of Egypt.77  This led to the project that was to occupy the remainder of his long life, that of creating a definitive study of the Muslim architecture of Egypt.  To prepare for this task, however, he produced  two massive volumes on Early Muslim Architecture (Oxford, 1932-40).78

Self-taught, Creswell practiced a deliberate methodological austerity.  Ignoring the so-called minor arts and any questions of cultural context, he confined himself to architecture, which he studied by careful observation and measurement.  He regarded chronology as the “spinal column” of his endeavor.  Oftentimes he seems to have believed that if he could place the monuments in a correct sequence, like so many dominoes, he could resolve all the relevant problems, including such controversial questions as the origin of the minaret and the pointed arch. Hampered by lack of funds, he was unable to study first-hand buildings in Turkey and Iran that would have modified his concentration on Syria and Egypt.  Since Creswell’s death in 1974 scholars have become increasingly conscious of the limitations--as well as the undoubted strengths--of his “tunnel vision,” flaws which they have sought to address in various ways.  When all is said and done, though, the procedure of first examining and publishing the monuments remains the essential precondition of any future interpretation.

Islamic Art Research Today.

Some tentative observations are in order concerning the contemporary state of Islamic art historiography.  The older idea of rooting Islamic art in Roman and Byzantine precedent had the advantage of showing its organic links--at least for the early Muslim centuries. Yet the emphasis on origins has left a heritage that might be characterized as antimodernist: as a rule, for monuments created after 1300 CE interest drops considerably, and for those produced after 1700 it is almost nonexistent.  This prejudice probably reflects the preference, documented for some other types of non-European art, for “pristine” works uncorrupted by Western influences.  Geographically, stress falls disproportionately on the fifth of the Muslim world that is Arabic in language; comparatively speaking, Islamic art in Indonesia, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and sub-Saharan Africa is scarcely known at all.

Allocation of scholarly interest among media differs from that found in studies of Western art. As Oleg Grabar has remarked:  “architecture and its related techniques outrank painting, sculpture, and objects.  Does the Muslim concern for the whole community lead to a community development of setting and leave other artistic endeavors to the less controllable choices of individuals?”79

The contribution to these studies on the part of scholars from Islamic countries themselves has been less extensive than one might expect. Yet Turkey is an exception.  My Name Is Red (1998) is a Turkish experimental novel by the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk.  Set in sixteenth-century Istanbul, it concerns a group of miniaturists who seek to use their art to reach a higher reality.

As a rule, Muslims who ponder their artistic heritage seem inclined to stress its unity and autonomy, regarding this legacy as obedient to overarching religious ideals.  Typically, the approach is ahistorical, emphasizing such timeless factors as mysticism, cosmic unity, indwelling spirit, and so forth.  Yet many older works in the minor arts were produced by Christians.80  Less well known is the fact that many jewelers were Jews owing to their connection with money lending.  (Islamic moralists tended to condemn gold jewelry, as Muhammad had only silver ornaments.)  Thus there is a contrast between art in Islam (sometimes termed Islamicate art) and art that expresses Islam.  The latter is a subset of the former.

 Currently a building boom is occurring in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States.  Generous subsidies have also been forthcoming to erect mosques and Islamic centers in the major cities of the Western world.  In due course, this architecture, which blends modern and postmodern techniques with historical reminiscences, must receive proper attention.


In the previous chapter reference was made to the current tendency, represented by the late Edward Said and his followers, to denigrate Western orientalism as essentially a tool of imperialist domination that relegated other civilizations to a permanent second-class status.  Yet the above account has disclosed a much more varied picture, in which generations of scholars have struggled--admittedly not without personal and group limitations--to achieve a better understanding of other societies.  Certainly none of the civilizations they studied has ever made a comparable effort to understand peoples who fell under their yoke.

Another manifestation of sympathy is this.  Instead of merely reflecting European era terms, periodization schemes have generally respected the dynastic nomenclature of the Eastern civilizations themselves (e.g. Song, Tokugawa, Abbasid).  This adherence to indigenous practice does not exclude stated or implied connections, as the perceived link between aniconism and formality of early Buddhist art in India and similar features in Early Christian art of the Mediterranean countries. Similarly, the Wei sculptures of China have been likened to Romanesque and Gothic pieces produced in Western Europe.

Despite the cliche of the unchanging Orient, serious scholars are generally attentive to changes over time. To be sure, this interest may not be always altruistic, for the market value of a piece may depend on its correct dating.

Regional differences are oftentimes elided, perhaps because of a belief in the intrinsic unity of Japaneseness, Islamicity, and so forth.  This awareness of difference prompted many to acknowledge, implicitly or explicitly, that the Western triad of the three fine(st) arts of architecture, painting, and sculpture could not be simply transferred to these Eastern societies.  In three of them--China, Japan, and Islam--calligraphy ranked as a major art, which it never did in the West.

Earlier scholars tended to have inadequate or nonexistent language equipment; now perhaps too much emphasis is placed on such accomplishments which add further years of study to an already lengthy apprenticeship in art history.  And it goes without saying that knowledge of the languages does not guarantee entry into the inner spirit of any given civilization.

Encouraged by government support in the United States, the area-studies framework has fostered a many-layered approach integrating geography, social history, and language among other disciplines.  Yet if it has promoted integrated study within particular contexts, it has shortchanged cultural contacts linking distinct areas.  One misses, for example, the earlier intense interest in the silk roads connecting East with Central and South Asia, not to mention the Byzantine-Islamic interchange.

Despite all the criticisms that may be justly leveled at East Asian, South Asian, and “orientalist” scholarship generally, these pursuits have amassed a body of information and interpretations that commands respect.  Only by mastering this wealth of material can the way be won to opening new, and perhaps more durable perspectives.


1 Because of the diversity of the civilizations concerned, there have been few Pan-Asian studies of the historiography of the art of these nations; see however the essay collection edited by Vishaka Desai, Asian Art in the Twenty-First Century, Williamstown: Clark Art Institute, 2008.
2 Jonathan D. Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, New York: Viking Penguin, 1984.
3 For this activity in its larger setting, see Wolfgang Franke, China and the West, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1967, pp. 34-65.  See also Colin Mackeras, Western Images of China, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.  For Jesuit reports as the foundation of modern sinology, see José Frèches, La Sinologie, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1975..  More detail on the work in China appears in David E. Mungello, Curious Land: The Jesuit Accommodation and the Origin of Sinology, Stuttgart: Steiner, 1985.
4 D. P. Walker, The Ancient Theology, London: Duckworth, 1972; David Mungello, Leibniz and Confucianism: The Search for Accord, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1977.
5 Adolf Reichwein, China and Europe: Intellectual and Artistic Contact in the Eighteenth Century, New York: Knopf, 1925; Basil Guy, The French Image of China Before and After Voltaire, Geneva: Institut et Musée Voltaire, 1963.
6 The character of the export trade can be appreciated in detail through the account of the contents of as shipwrecked vessel of the Dutch East India Company: C. L. van der Pijl-Ketel, ed., The Ceramic Load of the “Witte Leeuw” (1613), Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 1982.
7 See Hugh Honour, Chinoiserie: The Vision of Cathay, London: John Murray, 1961; and Dawn Jacobson, Chinoiserie, London: Phaidon, 1993.
8 See Eleanor von Erdberg, Chinese Influence on Western Garden Structures, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936; Oswald Sirén, China and the Gardens of Europe in the Eighteenth Century, New York: Ronald Press, 1950; and Patrick Conner, Oriental Architecture in the West, London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.
9 John Harris, Sir William Chambers: Knight of the Polar Star, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1970.
10 Cited after Michael Sullivan, The Meeting of Eastern and Western Art, Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1973, p. p.
11 Franke, China, pp. 140-42.
12 Norman J. Girardot, The Victorian Translation of China: James Legge’s Oriental Pilgrimage, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
13 See the invaluable monograph by Warren J. Cohen, East Asian Art and American Culture: A Study in International Relations, New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.
14 Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art, New York: Abrams, 1993.
15 For an overview, see Peter Hopkirk, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980.  See also Sir Aurel Stein, Innermost Asia, 4 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1928; item, Serindia, 5 vols., Oxford Clarenden Press, 1921; Paul Pelliot, Mission en Asie Centrale, Paris, 1910 (Comptes-rendus de l’Académie d’Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres); Albert von Le Coq, Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien, 7 vols., Berlin: Reimer, 1922-23.  On Stein and his discoveries, see Jeannette Mirsky, Sir Aurel Stein: Archaeological Explorer, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977; and Annabel Walker, Aurel Stein: Pioneer of the Silk Road, Seattle: University of Washington Press 1995.  Also, Roderick Whitfield and Ann Farrer, Caves of the Thousand Buddhas; Chinese Art from the Silk Route, New York: George Braziller, 1990 (exhibition catalogue of materials in the British Museum).
16 Kwang-chih Chang, The Archaeology of Ancient China, 4th ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986.
17 Cited after Eleanor von Erdberg, “Die Anfänge der ostasiatischen Kunstgeschichte in Deutschland,” in Lorenz Dittmann, ed., Kategorien und Methoden der deutschen Kunstgeschichte 1900-1930, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1985, p. 187.
18 The work of revising Sirén’s attributions is continuing; see, for example, James Cahill, An Index of Early Chinese Painters and Paintings, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
19 See the classic article of Arthur O. Lovejoy, “The Chinese Origin of a Romanticism,” in his Essays in the History of Ideas, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1948, pp. 99-135.
20 Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, “East Asia: Architectural History Across War Zones and Political Boundaries” in Elizabeth Blair McDougal, ed., The Architectural Historian in America (Studies in the History of Art, 35), Washington DC: National Gallery of Art, 1990, 177-89.
21 Principles of Chinese Painting, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947, p. 24.
22 For the origins of Pound’s involvement with China as a poet, see Wai-lim Yip, Ezra Pound’s Cathay, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.  More generally, see Laszlo Gefin, Ideogram: The History of a Poetic Method, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982.
23 Xiamei Chen, “’Misunderstanding’ Western Modernism: The Megleng Movement in Post-Mao China,” Representations, 35 (Summer 1991), 143-63.
24 For recent advances in American scholarship, see Cohen, East Asian Art, pp. 153-99.
25 Josh Yiu, ed., Writing Modern Chinese Art: Historiographic Explorations, Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2009.
26 John Ayers, et al., Porcelain for Palaces: The Fashion for Japan in Europe, 1650-1750, London: Oriental Ceramic Society, 1990.
27 Clay Lancaster, The Japanese Influence in America, Rawls, 1963; Sally Miles, Japanese Influences in American Art 1853-1900, Williamstown: Sterling and Francine Clark Institute, 1981; William Hosley, The Japan Idea: Art and Life in Victorian America, Hartford: Wadsworth Athenaeum, 1990; Julia Meech and Gabriel P. Weisberg, Japonisme Comes to America: The Japanese Impact on the Graphic Arts 1876-1925, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1990.  For parallel developments in Britain, see Tomoko Sato and Toshio Watanabe, eds., Japan and Britain: An Aesthetic Dialogue 1850-1930, London: Lund Humphries, 1991.
28 For further references to this burgeoning field of study, see Gabriel P. Weisberg and Yvonne M. L. Weisberg, Japonisme: An Annotated Bibliography, New York: Garland, 1990.
29 This point is argued in Harry D. Smith [et al.], Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, New York: George Braziller, 1980.
30 Carl Dawson, Lafcadio Hearn and the Vision of Japan, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992
31 Dorothy Wayman, Edward Sylvester Morse, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1942; Cohen, East Asian Art, pp. 23-28.
32 Lawrence W. Chisholm, Fenollosa: The Far East and American Culture, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963
33 Minoru Harada, Meiji Western Painting (Arts of Japan), New York: Weatherhill/Shibundo, 1974.
34 Yasuko Horioka, The Life of Kakuzo Okakura: The Author of the “Book of Tea,” Tokyo: Hokuseido Press, 1963.
35 Julia Meech-Pekarik, “Frank Lloyd Wright and Japanese Prints,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 40 (1982), 49-56.  More generally, see Kevin Nute, Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan: The Role of Traditional  Japanese Art and Architecture in the Work of Frank Lloyd Wright, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1995.
36 See Jacqueline Baas, Smile of the Buddha: Eastern Philosophy and Western Art from Monet to Today, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005; and Ellen Pearlman, Nothing and Everything: The Influence of Buddhism on the American Avant-Garde: 1942-1962, New York: Evolver Editions, 2012.
37 A. L. Basham, The Wonder That Was India, Calcutta: Rupa, 1967, p. 350.
38 For a detailed analysis of continuing Western misperceptions of Indian art, see Partha Mitter, Much Maligned Monsters: History of European Reactions to Indian Art, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977.  Unless otherwised noted, quotations in the pages that follow derive from Mitter.
39 Pramod Chandra, On the Study of Indian Art, Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1983.
40 Raymond Schwob, The Oriental Renaissance: Europe’s Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680-1880, translated by Gene Patterson-Black and Victor Reinking, New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.
41 Garland Cannon, Sir William Jones, the Father of Modern Linguistics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990
42 For these influences, see Raymond Head, The Indian Style, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
43 “Early Buddhist Art and the Theory of Aniconism,” Art Journal, 49:4 (Winter 1990), 401-08.
44 For the links between nineteenth-century institutions, such as the Archaeological Survey, and independent India, see Tapati Guha-Thakurta, Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.
45 Coomaraswami’s summa is his History of Indian and Indonesian Art, New York: Weyhe, 1927.  See also the two volumes of his selected papers, edited by Roger Lipsey, complemented by a third volume authored by Lipsey, Coomaraswamy: His Life and Work, with “Selected Bibliography,”  pp. 293-34, [all] Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.
46 “Kostüm und Mode in den indischen Fürstenhofeen des 16.-19. Jahrhunderts,” Jahrbuch der Asiatischen Kunst, 1 (1924)..
47 Cited from the biographical essay by Barbara Stoler Miller (pp. 3-33) in Kramrisch, Exploring India’s Sacred Art: Selected Writings of Stella Kramrisch, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 183, p. 20.
48 Joanna Williams, “From the Fifth to the Twentieth Century and Back,” Art Journal, 49:4 (Winter 1990).
49 The links are highlighted in Stuart Piggott, Prehistoric India, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970,  More up-to-date, but less focused is B. and F. R. Alchin, The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
50 See also Klaus-Peter Gast, Le Corbusier: Paris-Chandigarh, Basel: Birkhäuser, 2000; Vikramaditya Prakash, Chandigarh’s Le Corbusier; The Struggle for Modernity in Postcolonial India, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002; and Ernst Scheidegger, Chandigarh 1956: Le Corbusier and the Promotion of Architectural Modernity, Zurich: Scheidegger und Spiess, 2010.
51 For some examples of this work, see Vikram Bhatt and Peter Scriver, Contemporary Indian Architecture: After the Masters, Ahmedabad: Mapin, 1990.
52 For a variety of recent viewpoints, see Donald M. Stadtner, ed., “New Approaches in South Asian Art,” Art Journal, 49:4 (Winter 1990)
53 Helen C. Evans, ed., Byzantium and Islam: The Age of Transition, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012 (exhibition cat.)
54 For examples, see Michael Camille, The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-Making in Medieval Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 129-64.
55 Albert Hourani, Islam in European Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p. 9.
56 Boswell’s Life of Johnson, ed. L. F. Powell, vol. 4, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934, p. 199.
57 Jerrilynn D. Dodds, Architecture and Ideology in Early Medieval Spain, University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989.
58 For an overview see Richard Ettinghausen, “The Impact of Muslim Decorative Arts and Painting on the Arts of Europe,” in Joseph Schacht and C. E. Bosworth, eds., The Legacy of Islam, Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1974, pp. 292-320. Also, Rosamund E. Mack, Bazaar to Piazza: Islamic Trade and Italian Art, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002; and Stefano Carboni, Venice and the Islamic World, 828-1797. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007.
59 Hans-Günther Schwab, Orient-Okzident: Der orientalische Teppich in der westlichen Literatur, Ästhetik und Kunst, Munich: Iudicium Verlag, 1990. p. 92.
60 See the brilliant observations of Joseph Masheck, The Carpet Paradigm, New York, 2010.
61 Nicole Dacos, La decouverte de la Domus Aurea et la formation des grotesques à la Renaissance, London: Warburg Institute, 1971.
62 Ernst Kühnel, The Arabesque: Meaning and Transformation of an Ornament, Graz: Verlag fur Sammler, 1971; Eva Baer, Islamic Ornament. NY: NYU Press, 1998.
63 [Robert Cardinal de Lenoncourt?]. Hypnoerotomachie, ou Discours du Songe de Poliphile, Paris: Jacques Kerver, 1546, fol. 31v; cited after M. Cagnon and S. Smith, “Le vocabulaire de l’architecture en France de 1500 à 1550,” Cahiers de Léxicologie, 18 (1971), 89-108. See also Claire Lévy, “Arabesque,” Le Français Moderne, 28 (1960), 181-95. Although the source of the word itself is probably Italian (arabesco), it has not been traced in that language prior to its appearance in a letter of November 11, 1564 of Annibale Caro (1507-1566), Letter inedite, Milan: Tipografia Pogliani, 1830. 
64 The following paragraphs rely in large measure on the comprehensive study of John Sweetman, Oriental Obsession: Islamic Inspiration in British and American Art and Architecture, 1500-1920, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
65 Fatma Müge Göçek, East Encounters West: France and the Ottoman Empire in the Eighteenth Century, New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
66 On the development of Arabic studies, see the encyclopedic survey of Johann Fück, Die Arabische Studien in Europa bis in den Anfang des 20. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz, 1955; and the more selective study of Jean-Jacques Waardenburg, L’Islam dans le miroir de l”Occident, Paris: Mouton, 1962, which concentrates on representative figures of the nineteenth and twentieth century. For Art, see Stephen Vernoit, Discovering Islamic Art: Scholars, Collectors and Collections, 1850-1950. London: I. B. Tauris, 2000; and the special number “Islamic Art Historiography” of the Journal of Art Historiography, 6 (June 2012).
67 For some less scholarly aspects of this focus, see Mursi Saad el Din and John Cromer, Under Egypt’s Spell: The Influence of Egypt on Writers in English from the Eighteenth Century, London: Bellew, 1991.
68 [OMIT]
69 The complimentary themes of French perceptions of Egyptian culture and Egyptian perceptions of French are highlighted by the sixty-three contributions in Marie-Claude Burgart, ed., D’un orient l’autre, 2 vols., Paris: Editions du Centre Nationale de la Recerche Scientifiquem 1991.
70 Raphael Patai, Ignaz Goldziher and His Oriental Diary, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987, pesents a frank portrait of the founder of modern Islamic studies.
71 Robert Hillenbrand, “Creswell and Contemporary Central European Scholarship,” Muqarnas, 8 (1991), 23-35.
72 The lively biography of Erich Feigl, Musil von Arabien: Vorkãmpfer der islamischen Welt, Vienna: Amalthea, 1985, unfortunately gives little indication of his impact on art history.
73 Alois Riegl, Stilfragen: Grundlegung zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik, Berlin: Georg Siemens, 1893.  See the English-language version Problems of Style: Foundations for a History of Ornament, trans. Evelyn Kain, annotated by David Castriota, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.
74 Terry Allen, Five Essays on Islamic Art, Manchester, MI: Solipsist Press, 1988, pp. 1-9.
75 For the background of this development, see Neil Asher Silberman, Digging for God and Country: Exploration, Archaeology, and the Secret Struggle for the Holy Land, 1799-1917, New York: Knopf: 1982.
76 See Fereshteh Daftari, The Influence of Persian Art on Gauguin, Matisse, and Kandinsky, New York: Garland, 1992; and Jack Cowart et al., Matisse in Morocco, New York: Abrams, 1990.
77 Muqarnas, 8 (1991), special issue on K. A. C. Creswell and His Legacy.
78 Two stately volumes of the work to which the earlier pair had been intended as prolegomena finally appeared after the war: The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952-60.  For more recent scholarship, see Doris Behrens-Abouseif, Islamic Architecture in Cairo: An Introduction, Leiden: Brill, 1989.
79 “Reflections on the Study of Islamic Art,” Muqarnas, 1 (1983), 1-14..
80 See, e.g., Eva Baer, Ayyubid Metalwork with Christian Images, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1989.


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