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0014 The Thousand Buddhas : vol.1
The Thousand Buddhas : vol.1 / Page 14 (Grayscale High Resolution Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000188
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The mixture of influences already referred to revealed itself plainly in features directly derived from Graeco-Buddhist art and in marks of the change it had undergone on its passage through Central Asia or Tibet. But the preponderance of Chinese taste and style was all the same unmistakable from the first. On the iconographic side, too, it soon became clear that the varied imagery displayed by the paintings, though based on Indian conceptions and forms, bore the impress of important changes undergone on its transition to China and after its adoption there. The chief hope of guidance for the interpretation of this Pantheon lay manifestly in comparison with the artistic creations of the later Mahayana Buddhism of the Far East, especially of Japan, and in the Chinese inscriptions displayed by many of the silk paintings. It was obvious hence that for this part of my collection a collaborator was needed who with knowledge of Buddhist iconography would combine the qualifications of a Sinologue as well as familiarity with Far-Eastern art in general.

Through Mr. Binyon's friendly intercession I was able in the autumn of 1911 and towards the close of my stay in England to secure this collaborator, and one exceptionally qualified, in the person of M. RAPHAEL PETRUCCI. Already distinguished in more than one field of research, M. Petrucci combined enthusiastic devotion to Far-Eastern art as a critic, connoisseur, and collector, with Sinologue studies begun under such a master as M. Chavannes. A series of important publications on the art of China and Japan bears eloquent testimony to his eminent fitness for what was bound to prove a difficult task. During the following two years M. Petrucci devoted protracted labours to the study of our paintings and their inscriptions. The results were to be embodied in an extensive Appendix to Serindia, probably requiring a separate volume.

In 1913 he supplied me with the draft of his introductory chapter dealing with the votive inscriptions of our paintings, and after my start that year for a third Central-Asian expedition he discussed in a separate essay those elaborate compositions or ` Maidalas' which form the subject of some of the largest and artistically most interesting of our paintings .3 In addition to the above M. Petrucci had collected a great mass of Chinese textual materials for the identification of Jataka scenes, individual divinities, &c., represented in the paintings, when the invasion of Belgium cut him off from his home at Brussels and all his materials. Under the conditions created by the world war he was unable to resume his task in earnest. But he found occasion even then, in the midst of voluntarily undertaken medical duties under the Belgian Red Cross, to revisit our Collection, to assist with his expert advice in the cataloguing of the Tun-huang paintings, and to publish in the Annales of the Musée Guimet a short but very instructive and stimulating conférence on them .4

When returning in May 1916 from my third Central-Asian expedition, I found M. Petrucci at Paris, still full of vigour and eagerly bent upon carrying through his task. When a few weeks afterwards I was able to inform him of the fortunate chance which, as will be explained presently, had offered to make select specimens of our Tun-huang paintings accessible in adequate reproductions to a wider circle of students of Far-Eastern art, he most willingly undertook to contribute the main portion of the text which was to accompany them. But some months later he began to suffer from an internal ailment, and though in the autumn of 1916 he was still strong enough to take a very helpful share in the selection of the paintings to be reproduced in The Thousand Buddhas, his condition became serious enough to necessitate a grave operation in February 1917. This he overcame with apparent success, only to succumb a week later to diphtheritis contracted in the hospital. Deprived thus by a cruel blow of Fate of a most valued collaborator and friend, we must rest content with dedicating to his memory this publication in which he was to have borne a principal share.

In accordance with the plan sanctioned in 1911 by the Secretary of State for India,

3 These contributions have since been printed in Appendix E of Serindia, pp. 1392-428, after having been carefully prepared for publication by M. Chavannes, with the assistance of common friends, MM. Foucher and

Sylvain Lévi.

4 See Petrucci, Les peintures bouddhiques de Touen-houang, Mission Stein (Annales du Musée Guimet, Bibliothèque de vulgarisation, xli, 1916, pp. 115-4o).