Mathura School of Art

mathura school of art

Mathura School of Art:

After the decline of the Mauryan Empire in 3rd Century BCE, sculptural art deteriorated significantly. There are not any examples of great sculptors during the 3rd century BCE and the first century CE. Bharahut, Sanchi, and some other places are architectural masterpieces but it was the Mathura art that came out with a special appearance.

Mathura was the epicenter of art in the northern part of India. It is located in Uttar Pradesh near Agra. In the Vedic Mahajanapada period, Mathura was known as Sursena. The most crucial time of Mathura art can be dated from the 1st century CE to the 3rd century CE. Mathura art flourished for the next 400 years until the Gupta Empire fell.

Kushanas (Mainly Kanishka) were the ones who patronized Mathura art the most. Mathura craftsmen took the Bharahut and Sanchi art and they added some more elements to it. Because of this addition, the quality of the sculptures got improved. Mathura craftsmen started working on the more evolutionary pattern and they came out with something new which made a powerful impact on Indian Iconography and art. It was so strong that it soon spread to other parts of Northern India. All 3 religions – Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism were depicted in Mathura style. Sculptors similar to that of Mathura art have been found at several places like- Ahikshetra (Ahichhatra), Sanchi, Sarnath, Kausambi etc.

The Shalbhanjika, Standing Buddha sculpture, Shivalingam, Tirthankar, and various Yaksha sculptures of Mathura attracts everyone. These sculptures are not just a piece of art but also give a reference collaboration of various art forms. Mathura art can be counted as the revival of Indian art after the fall of the Mauryan empire.

Features of Mathura School of Art:

  1. The Buddha image at Mathura is modeled on the lines of earlier Yaksha images whereas in Gandhara it has Hellenistic features.
  2. It may be noted that the images of Vishnu and Shiva are represented by their ayudhas (weapons).
  3. There is boldness in carving the large images, the volume of the images is projected out of the picture plane, the faces are round and smiling, and heaviness in the sculptural volume is reduced to relaxed flesh.
  4. The garments of the body are clearly visible and they cover the left shoulder.
  5. Images of the Buddha, Yakshas, Yakshinis, Shaivite, and Vaishnavite deities and portrait statues are profusely sculpted.
  6. In the second century CE, images in Mathura get sensual, rotundity increased, and they become fleshier.
  7. In the third century CE, the treatment of sculptural volume changed by reducing the extreme fleshiness, movement in the posture is shown by an increasing distance between the two legs as well as by using bents in the body posture.
  8. Softness in the surface continues to get refined.
  9. Transparent quality in the robes of the Buddha images is evident
  10. The halo around the head is profusely decorated

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