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Book: Narrative Visions and Visual Narratives in Indian Buddhism

Chapter: 2. Rethinking Chronology and Narrative Modes: The Case of Sancī Stūpa 2

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.39988


Different modes of visual narration were employed in early Buddhist art. As a result, visualizations of the same narrative are often both profoundly different and difficult to interpret (or even identify) in the absence of inscriptions or securely identified comparisons. The aim of this chapter is to illustrate the benefits of a reconsideration on the one hand of established chronologies (which have considerably influenced the history of iconographic studies) and on the other of visual narration modes in order to deepen our knowledge of the visual expressions of narrative in early Buddhist art. The case of Sanchi Stūpa 2 provides a prime example, where a chronological reassessment and the identification of a variant of the monoscenic mode of visual narration (the spotlight mode) lead to the identification of a narrative vein including (as yet) unknown narratives. The same kind of approach could be fruitfully applied to well-studied reliefs as well as more obscure ones, hopefully paving the way for the development of studies in the future.

Chapter Contributors

  • Flavia Zaghet ( - fzaghet) 'Sapienza University of Rome'