‘I’ve studied art history across all Asian cultures. For me, Buddhism is the common thread that ties all these different cultures together.’ Surrounded by a panoply of pocket-size gilt figures, Christie’s Asian Art specialist Tristan Bruck introduces a collection of Chinese and Korean Buddhist bronzes that tell the story of religious art in Asia across 600 years, from the 4th century to the 10th century AD.
From a 4th-century Buddhist statue with Indian and Greco-Roman origins that traces the path of Alexander the Great’s conquests, to a later, more idealised representation of Buddha, the collection, offered during Asian Art Week in New York, provides ‘a window into the private lives of people who lived 1500 years ago’.
‘Some of the earliest Buddhist bronzes in China were brought by monks and traders along the Silk Road from India and Central Asia to China. They were small, easily portable, could be slipped into a pocket or saddlebag and set up on a small private shrine for worship,’ explains Bruck, highlighting some of the specimens being offered in Treasures of the Noble Path: Early Buddhist Art from Japanese Collections.
‘Buddhism eventually made its way to the shores of Japan,’ says Bruck, detailing the journeys this group of statues — all of which have been acquired by Japanese collectors — has taken. ‘Each culture interpreted Buddhism in their own way, and so the study of Buddhist art is in itself a study of the history of Asian art.’