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Kandy Period Bronze Buddha Images of Sri Lanka: Visual and Technological Styles

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A rich collection of Buddha images belonging to the Kandyan period (17th– 18th Century AD) possessing characteristic visual features and made of different media have been found from the different parts of the country. Among them a significant number of images are made using the metal. This paper intends to study the metallurgy of the Kandyan period Buddha images which in turn gives some light to the metal technology of that period. In addition this paper tries to study metallurgy of the studied icons in relation to their visual features (visual styles). Twenty metal Buddha images which have been attributed to the Kandyan period and now deposited at the National Museum, Colombo were taken for this study (see appendix 1). These images have been classified as belonging to the Kandyan period mostly by art historical means such as iconography and iconometry which have undoubtedly been proved as very successful for this task.

A historical metal icon possesses two main styles as emphasized by Chandra Reedy (Reedy 1997: 15).

  1. Visual style
  2. Technological Style

The art historical method of classification uses the visual style of an icon as the main source of information in classifying an image. But in this study, it is shown that if we could combine the information gathered from visual styles of the icons by art historical means with the information obtained from their technological styles, it would be more accurate and could go for even further classifications which would not be possible based on the art historical means only.

Arjuna Thantilage
Senior Lecturer, Coordinator, Laboratory for Cultural Material Analysis (LCMA),
Postgraduate Institute of Archaeology, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka

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