Hermann Goetz: Indian Art 
Of all great art traditions of mankind thaf o( India is the least 
known. Nevertheless, the number of monuments which survive to- 
day is no smaller than what survives in the Occident, and these 
again are but a fraction of what was created in the course of 
thousands of years. Even monuments built betöre the sixteenth 
Century are wholly incomplete, while from the times betöre the 
turn of our millenium only Occidental ruins have been preserved 
for US, preserved by their own durability, by the loneliness of the 
jungle, by the earth itself from total destruction. And mosf of it 
lies still unrevealed beneath the tens of thousands of mounds of 
rubble which cover the whole counfry. For refinement of taste and 
workmanship, richness of form and significance of content, the 
Creations of Indian art, however varied in kind and quality, fairly 
rival the work of ancienf Greece and Rome, Gothic or Renais 
sance times, ancient Egypt of Babylon, China or Japan. The dis- 
covery of Indian arf is still of fairly recent date, and a long series 
of misconceptions, familiär to us from the story of the uncovering 
of other culfures, has so far stood in the way of its appreciation. 
All thaf was accessible to the traveller until late in the nineteenth 
Century were temples and palaces, offen of overwhelming pro- 
portions but with fheir mannered style, overloaded decoration 
and complicaied symbolism, no less difficuli to understand than 
a baroque Jesuit church or a late Renaissance or rococo mansion. 
In addition, much that the foreigner was able io see was every- 
day merchandise, temples and mosques as boring and iasieless 
as many of our nineteenth Century churches, cheap or meaningless 
religious art such as we find in great quantities in Europe, and 
Works of arf no better than the Irash which we, too, seil as Souve 
nirs to tourisis. In fact, most of what found its way into our mu- 
seums, even in the nineteenth Century, as Indian — in fact as 
Asian — 'arl" can Claim no higher valuation. Reproduciions in 
iravellers’ reports were still worse. Whether Indian Originals or 
— much more offen — clumsy amateur drawings, bofh were "im- 
proved” by the copper-plate engravers to the point of being un- 
It was therefore above all Indo-Islamic art, easily accessible in 
the Principal eitles, comparatively simple and without too many 
symbolic preconditions, which first found recognition in Europe. 
The Taj Mahal, the monumental tomb of the Mughal Empress 
Mumtaz-Mahal and her husband the Emperor Shahjahan, al- 
though anything but a pure Indian creation, became at an early 
date a world-famous landmark of Indian art, although certainly 
the unbelievable quantities of purest white morble and costly 
inlays of precious stones must impress even the most artistically 
blind. Mughal painting reached Europe from the seventeenth 
Century onwards in (mostly second-rate) albums and was col- 
lected by Rembrandt and Sir Joshua Reynolds. 
When India became better known in the nineteenth Century, its 
appreciation was blocked by classical taste in art and religious 
prejudice. For the majority of Europeans, Indian art was really 
no more than the expression of a dark and dreadfui heathen 
religion, and even the study of Sanskrit at our universities could 
do little to change this attitude. Preoccupied as it was in general 
with a far older religious literature, such study helped as much, 
or as little, as, say, Ihe study of the Bible or the ancient classics 
would help to understand the Strasbourg Minster, Rembrandt or 
Tiepolo. It was only in the middle of the Century, when Sir Alex 
ander Cunningham, followed by James Burgess, Ff. Cousens and 
others, began to catalogue the Indian monuments systematically; 
when, later, surviving Indian Works of art were no less sysiemati- 
cally collected and indexed; when James Fergusson made the first 
attempt af a Classification in his ’Fiistory of Indian and Eastern 
Architecture;" when at the end of the nineties the publication of 
painstaking copies of the Ajanta frescoes under the supervision of 
J. Griffiths aroused a Sensation hardly less than was caused by the 
excavation of Pompeji, a hundred years earlier; as the Archae- 
ological Survey produced its first good illustrated yearly reports 
a few years later — only then did true Indian art gradually begin 
to become known. And öfter piefures in a Graeco-Roman pro- 
vincial style — only of minor importance for India — had come 
to light in Afghanistan, Europe began to take an Interest in 
Indian art. When finally, with the rediscovery of our own medi- 
aeval art, of Baroque and Rococo, one-sided classicism yielded 
to a broader and more elastic appreciation of arf, and when the 
Islamic World, Further India, China and Japan were discovered 
by our artists and art collectors, the time was ripe for the com- 
prehension of Indian art. 
Nevertheless, there recurred Ihe same misconception of a one- 
sided religious Interpretation which had at first hindered access 
to Greek, Gothic or ancient Egyptian art. India, a "colonial” 
country since the most ancient times, with unbelievably varied 
cultural strala, soon acquired the repufation of being narrowiy 
preoccupied with religion because many ancient cusloms and 
examples of bizarre sectarianism were exaggerated by Iravellers, 
because religious piclures, easiest Io acquire and carry, filied our 
museums, and because in consequence, our universities also con-


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