Work in Progress

Jaś Elsner:
Amarāvatī: Cosmography of an Ancient Stūpa

Lotus boss of a cross-bar from the Stūpa at Amarāvatī, with central seed pods, five rows of petals, including the incurving petals at the innermost row and a fine outer border of vines, leaves and fruit. Probably second or third century CE. London, British Museum.

Each of the great stūpas of early Buddhist India is a major cosmographic act – placing a relic of the Blessed one in a huge devotional container and through visual imagery sketching his many lifetimes as Bodhisattva on the path of perfection and purification, as well as the culmination of this mission in his last lifetime on earth as Buddha.  The particular achievement of the arts of Amarāvatī, perhaps sculpturally the supreme and certainly most complex of all our surviving sites, is its exceptional self-reflectivity, especially in the drum panels which will be discussed here.

Jaś Elsner is Professor of Late Antique Art at Oxford, Visiting Professor of Art and Religion at the University of Chicago and External Member of the KHI. In recent years he has been working on the formation of religious iconographies across Eurasia (a project that culminated in the Ashmolean Show Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of the World Religions, October 2017 – February 2018) and on the comparative histories of early Christian and early Buddhist art.  His most recent sole-authored book is Eurocentric and Beyond: Art History, the Global Turn and the Possibilities of Comparison, Beijing: Horizon/OCAT, 2022. His new monograph Amarāvatī: Art and Buddhism in Ancient India is due to be published by Reaktion Books, London, in June 2024.

This presentation is part of the seminar series "Work in Progress. A Series of Conversations", which is dedicated to ongoing research projects at the KHI and organized by Hannah Baader and Hana Gründler.

27 May 2024, 3:00pm

This will be a hybrid event.

Please register here for online attendance. 

Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze, Italia


This event will be documented photographically and/or recorded on video. Please let us know if you do not agree with the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz using images in which you might be recognizable for event documentation and public relation purposes (e.g. social media).


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