“Early Buddhist Art and the Theory of Aniconism”

Huntington, Susan L. “Early Buddhist Art and the Theory of Aniconism.” Art Journal 49, no. 4 (1990): 401-08. Accessed February 22, 2021. https://www.jstor.org/stable/777142

Huntington’s piece is based around the theory of aniconism, the “practice of either avoiding images of the Buddha or using symbols as substitutes for Buddha” (401). The author introduces scholarly viewpoints on whether or not aniconism was permitted under early Buddhist culture while also relying on old Buddhist art and manuscripts to strengthen her argument. She makes the case that aniconic symbols in early Buddhist art were not, in fact, aniconic, but important Buddhist symbols in their own right – not merely meant to represent Buddha himself. Nevertheless, she still concedes the point that there is further scholarly work to be done that could potentially refute her claim as early Buddhist manuscripts and art are largely understudied and her evidence was not exhaustive.

A question I have for the author is since the article is from 1990, whether or not the scholarly consensus – if there is one – has changed.

Author: Finn Boed

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