Has christian/Byzantine church art been influenced by Buddhist/Indian art?

Mar 2019
1,473
KL
#1
just see some of the similarities

Kizil caves,
14C date: 431-533 AD

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church dome, Baptism of Jesus: Located in the Arian Baptistery, Ravenna, Italy, and created in the late fifth to the early sixth century.


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Basilica of San Vitale, 547 AD


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Bharhut stupa, 2st BC

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western scholars do acknowledge atleast one bit of information which might relate buddhism with christianity and that is the story of Barlaam and Josaphat - Wikipedia

the church paintings dont really seem like related to roman paintings traditions which came earlier. the byzantine painting seem to be following an entirely different pattern not to mention using bright and different array of colours and mixing them together. the european western eurocentric scholars seem pretty mum on this subject dont you think? should it be declared indo christian art just like greco budhist art

regards
 
Last edited:
Jan 2016
1,127
Victoria, Canada
#3
The question of influence is an interesting one, but the similarities here are pretty superficial (in the case of the San Vitale angels almost certainly entirely coincidental) and the two dome works roughly contemporary. If there was any influence -- which is far from certain, given how natural placing human figures in a circle on a domed surface is -- there's also nothing here suggesting which way it went one way or another.

the church paintings dont really seem like related to roman paintings traditions which came earlier. the byzantine painting seem to be following an entirely different pattern not to mention using bright and different array of colours and mixing them together. the european western eurocentric scholars seem pretty mum on this subject dont you think? should it be declared indo christian art just like greco budhist art
On a surface level Late Antique Roman art looks quite different from Roman art of earlier periods, but that's mainly because of a shift in colour palette, most notably in the vastly increased use of gold and highly contrasting primary colours, driven by a need to differentiate the Christian present from the Pagan past (I've also heard the whole gold backgrounds thing is rooted in Aristotelian ideas about the cosmos, although I can't remember the specifics). Otherwise, the same themes, styles, motifs, and framing devices are continuous in Roman art from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd centuries into the 4th, 5th, 6th, and beyond. Furthermore, the colours used in Romano-Christian art are actually very different from the colours used in Buddhist art, including the above frescoes, in that the former tends to be focused on contrasting primary colours while the latter is more focused on contrasting deeper and paler tones. Compare the vibrant contrasts of the Arian Baptistery to the more blended, muted tones of the Kizil fresco:





Additionally, antecedents for the distinct pallet of Late Antique art can be seen in Roman works from as far back as the 2nd century BC, as with this mosaic from Herculaneum from c. 100 BC:



The framing and lily pattern at the top are especially of note, as both were still being used into the late 7th century, as with the mosaic of Constantine IV from that period in Ravenna:





In conclusion, there's no strong evidence here for any significant influence one way or another, and all evidence points to the shifts in Roman art in Late Antiquity being natural responses to shifting standards and circumstances, with strong roots in the classical Greco-Roman tradition. European and non-European scholars are mum on the subject because there's little to nothing there to discuss, at least based on any of the examples presented in the OP. So no, Late Antique art should not be declared "Indo-Christian" quite yet.
 
Mar 2019
1,473
KL
#4
The question of influence is an interesting one, but the similarities here are pretty superficial (in the case of the San Vitale angels almost certainly entirely coincidental) and the two dome works roughly contemporary. If there was any influence -- which is far from certain, given how natural placing human figures in a circle on a domed surface is -- there's also nothing here suggesting which way it went one way or another.
its just called being in denial mate, it happens.

im pretty sure it went from east to west and im pretty sure buddhist art did provide foundation conventions for christian arts, especially depictions of jesus christ himself, which is a pretty deviating factor considering the other two abrahamic religions of judaism and islam. The figures surrounded by halo doesnt give away anything? the angels depiction seem coincidence? the colour conventions have more similarities with buddhist paintings given it always used vibrant and mix of colours compared to a dark monotonous way of painting in roman era not to mention themes are completely contrasting as well. where the byzantine getting all these themes?

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regards
 
Jan 2016
1,127
Victoria, Canada
#5
im pretty sure it went from east to west and im pretty sure buddhist art did provide foundation conventions for christian arts
Well there's nothing backing up that certainty, I'm afraid. The two domes you mention are from nearly the exact same period, mid-5th century to mid-6th century in the Buddhist case (or mid-5th century to 700 according to Google Arts & Culture) and late-5th century to early 6th century in the Roman, and you haven't brought anything else to bear except for people that happen to both have wings 7 centuries apart.

especially depictions of jesus christ himself, which is a pretty deviating factor considering the other two abrahamic religions of judaism and islam.
Depiction of religious figures was absolutely standard in the Greco-Roman tradition, and even before the widespread adoption of Christianity had led to the depiction of religious figures in, for example, the 3rd century Dura Europos Synagogue; for instance here in Moses parting the sea:



The figures surrounded by halo doesnt give away anything?
Haloes are one instance where a Buddhist influence is a real possibility, but even then it's rather unlikely, and it's also quite possible the influence (again, if there was any) was the other way around. The sun is round, the sun is important to many religions, and it makes sense to put the sun around or behind the head of figures associated with it, from whence come haloes. Haloes have been present in the Greco-Roman tradition since the 5th century BC or earlier, and they feature increasingly in Roman art in the centuries leading up to the adoption of Christianity. They were associated particularly with Helios and Sol Invictus, with whom even Emperors as late as Constantine continually associated themselves. A Greek vase depicting Helios, from the 5th century BC:



A 4th century BC Athenian relief depicting the same:



A 1st century BC Indo-Greek coin depicting Nike:



A 2nd century AD coin of Antoninus Pius:



A 2nd century Roman mosaic of Apollo/Helios:



A mid-3rd century mosaic of Sol Invictus (or possibly Christ as such):



Roman Neptune from the 3rd-4th century:



A 4th century coin of Constantine and Galerius



A Renaissance copy of a 4th century depiction of Constantius II:



This common iconographic symbol thus likely made it into Christian art in the same way as many other Pagan motifs, just like the river god in the middle of that baptistery mosaic:



A factor perhaps indicating a lack of (at least recent) influence either way is also the completely different colours of the haloes and what they symbolize -- Roman haloes are almost invariably golden, and represent the sun or a divine aura, while Buddhist haloes are Orange or Green and represent levels of enlightenment.

the angels depiction seem coincidence?
Yes, it does. They're just two sets of people with wings in vaguely similar positions seven centuries apart, in completely different contexts and wearing completely different clothes. Winged divine/supernatural beings are common to many cultures throughout history, and go back in the Greco-Roman tradition, like haloes, to at least the 5th century BC; this representation of the goddess Nike from that period, for instance:



As well as Boreas, god of the north wind, from the same:



the colour conventions have more similarities with buddhist paintings given it always used vibrant and mix of colours compared to a dark monotonous way of painting in roman era
Did you not read my post? I literally gave an example of a Roman mosaic with the exact same vibrant palette seen in Late Antique art from the exact same period as the darker fresco in your image (from Herculaneum, circa 100 BC):



How is that "dark and monotonous" in any way? In any case, the colour palette of Buddhist frescoes, vibrant or not, is completely different from that of Roman art both Classical and Late Antique -- and closer to the former, if anything, with all the reds -- as all of the above frescoes and mosaics show.

not to mention themes are completely contrasting as well. where the byzantine getting all these themes?
The themes and subjects of Christian art are obviously different in that they're, well, Christian, but the motifs, styles, and framing devices of Christian art are continuous with earlier Roman models (and thus often explicitly Pagan), as can be seen in the examples above and elsewhere, and not all Late Antique art was Christian in the first place. There were plenty of works with Pagan themes being produced in the 5th, 6th, and even 7th centuries, and more secular art was also very common. This 6th century plate from Constantinople depicting a dancing Satyr and Maenad, for example:



In any case, none of the themes are Buddhist, certainly.
 
Likes: Niobe
Mar 2019
1,473
KL
#6
please post in smaller format

Haloes are one instance where a Buddhist influence is a real possibility, but even then it's rather unlikely, and it's also quite possible the influence (again, if there was any) was the other way around. The sun is round, the sun is important to many religions, and it makes sense to put the sun around or behind the head of figures associated with it
i am aware that the greeks used sun rays before, but the disk as halo was adopted from buddhist arts, the deities were given halos but not personalities like jesus, many cultures gave halos to deities but im specifically asserting the use of halos with figures like jesus and his companions, this i think was adopted from buddhist arts. your indo greek coin might be an example of how eastern norm moves westerwards, as during the same periods, your own posts indicate the greeks were using sun rays and later the discus was adopted as norm.

Did you not read my post? I literally gave an example of a Roman mosaic with the exact same vibrant palette seen in Late Antique art from the exact same period as the darker fresco in your image (from Herculaneum, circa 100 BC):
i dont think it has any relevance to the byzantine arts and im not convinced, the general coloring norm of roman painting was always contrary to byzantine arts

Yes, it does. They're just two sets of people with wings in vaguely similar positions seven centuries apart, in completely different contexts and wearing completely different clothes. Winged divine/supernatural beings are common to many cultures throughout history, and go back in the Greco-Roman tradition, like haloes, to at least the 5th century BC; this representation of the goddess Nike from that period, for instance:
im aware of many winged gods and creatures as early as bronze age, but im not aware of those flying angles represented in exactly the same manner in the greco roman arts.

i think that the persian sassanid equivalent will most align with the winged flying angels of the byzantine

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but then i too think this was adopted from indian arts as you can see the breasts which was convention in the indian arts.

regards
 
Last edited:
Jan 2016
1,127
Victoria, Canada
#7
please post in smaller format
It's annoying I know, but it's not really under my control. Since the recent software update historum always displays images at their maximum resolution no matter what, so I'd either have to chose low-quality photos (when available) or actively downscale the resolution, both of which reduce one's ability to use the works as historical sources (and in the latter case require a fair bit of extra time and work). I will try to use smaller images for the less important things though, and downscale some of the more ridiculously large images (like the plate).

, but the disk as halo was adopted from buddhist arts
The problem is that, while an influence was possible either way, you haven't given any evidence for this specific assertion, and as far as I know none really exists. We can say that Buddhist haloes might have had an influence on the ubiquity and form of haloes in Christian art, like the native haloes of Helios and Sol Invictus, but the claim that haloes were adopted from Buddhist art or that they prove a Buddhist influence on Christian art are completely unsubstantiated.

the deities were given halos but not personalities like jesus, many cultures gave halos to deities but im specifically asserting the use of halos with figures like jesus and his companions, this i think was adopted from buddhist arts.
I really don't see the logic here at all. You're asserting that the haloes of Jesus and company were borrowed specifically from Buddhist models, but again you give absolutely nothing to support this assertion. Jesus is not a "personality" in Christianity, he is literally God the Son, and thus possessed of the same deitic qualities (from a lay perspective if not necessarily a theological one) as Helios or especially Sol Invictus. It's only natural that artists would draw parallels in depicting them (there's even speculation that the 3rd century mosaic of Sol Invictus above is meant to represent Christ as Sol Invictus), and this connection is reinforced further by the common golden colour of the haloes, in contrast to the orange and green haloes of the Buddhist tradition.

i dont think it has any relevance to the byzantine arts and im not convinced, the general coloring norm of roman painting was always contrary to byzantine arts
"Byzantine art" is an anachronistic (and in this case arbitrary) label for a later phase of Roman art -- the two are entirely continuous, and no distinction was ever drawn between them in a contemporary context. What you're asserting here is that Roman art has no relevance to... Roman art. The Herculaneum mosaic is just one example of a brighter, more vibrant, and more colourful tradition within Greco-Roman art which was seized on by Christian Roman artists in crafting a distinct image for the artistic expression of their faith. There are many examples of less vibrant works of Roman art, often composed primarily of reds, whites, and beiges, and these too continued to be produced in Late Antiquity, but this was never the only pallet employed by Roman artists. We can see this vibrant aspect at work in the other frescoes of Herculaneum:


As well as in contemporary mosaics from Pompeii:




We can also see, as I said earlier, direct continuities from the Herculaneum mosaic (or more accurately other artworks like it) to the mosaics of Late Antiquity, as in the framing shown above (flanked by columns and topped by a conch) and even in a specific multicoloured scale-and-lily motif, as can be seen in comparing the mosaic with the 6th century arch mosaics of the Hagia Sophia:





Note also the distinct similarities in subject and style between another section of the same mosaic from Herculaneum (again c. 100 BC) and the mosaics of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (circa mid-5th century AD):





In whatever case, though, neither Classical nor Late Antique Roman art have a colour palette at all similar to that of contemporary Buddhist frescoes, so even if the "general coloring norm of roman painting was always contrary to byzantine arts" (which it evidently was not) it would hardly follow that such a shift was in any way the result of a specifically Buddhist influence instead of internal development. Just compare the above Roman examples to the Buddhist frescoes above, or to these 9th century frescoes from the Bezeklik Caves:





It's self-evident that these share nothing in common with Late Antique Roman mosaics in terms of colour, and their pallet is largely red, white, and beige, so closer, if anything, to the classical Roman frescoes you yourself say were "always contrary to Byzantine arts".

im aware of many winged gods and creatures as early as bronze age, but im not aware of those flying angles represented in exactly the same manner in the greco roman arts.

i think that the persian sassanid equivalent will most align with the winged flying angels of the byzantine
Well here you go, a 2nd century carving of the goddess Nike from Ephesus:



The Sassanid carving is very likely based on similar Greco-Roman examples, particularly in that it wears Greek dress; a diadem and peplos, namely.

but then i too think this was adopted from indian arts as you can see the breasts which was convention in the indian arts.
Breasts are a convention of the human species, not Indian art.
 
Likes: Niobe
Jan 2016
1,127
Victoria, Canada
#9
The breasts aren't actually bare in the carving, although looking at it again I can see how one might get that impression. The angel wears a peplos, a kind of Greek dress, with clasps at each shoulder. An example of the same dress from the Erechtheion, 5th century BC:



 
Likes: Niobe
Jan 2010
4,418
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#10
its just called being in denial mate, it happens.

im pretty sure it went from east to west and im pretty sure buddhist art did provide foundation conventions for christian arts, especially depictions of jesus christ himself, which is a pretty deviating factor considering the other two abrahamic religions of judaism and islam. The figures surrounded by halo doesnt give away anything? the angels depiction seem coincidence? the colour conventions have more similarities with buddhist paintings given it always used vibrant and mix of colours compared to a dark monotonous way of painting in roman era not to mention themes are completely contrasting as well. where the byzantine getting all these themes?

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regards
Do you have some source for your first claim? There was very close contact between Byzantium and Persia in Mesopotamia. Not saying you’re wrong, but have other scholars picked up on this?