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Alfred A. Foucher

From Academic Kids

Alfred Foucher (1865 - 1952), a French scholar, identified the Buddha image as having Greek origins.

He made his first trip to North-eastern India in 1895. In 1922 he was asked by the governments of France and Afghanistan to organize an archeological co-operative which became the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan.

Foucher's most famous work was L'Art Greco-Buddhique du Gandhara (translated by L.A. Thomas and F.W. Thomas as The Beginnings of Buddhist Art), in which he described how Buddhist art prior to Pan-Hellenism was principally aniconic, representing the Buddha by depicting elements of the Buddha's life instead of depicting the Buddha himself. Foucher argued that the first sculpted images of the Buddha were heavily influenced by Greek artists. He coined the term "Greco-Buddhist art".

Following the mid-20th century discovery of Roman trading posts in Southern India, Foucher's argument was revised in favour of Roman influence, as opposed to Greek. New archeological discoveries in Central Asia however (such as the Hellenistic city of Ai-Khanoum and the excavation of Sirkap in modern Pakistan), have been pointing to rich Greco-Bactrian and Indo-Greek civilizations in these areas, reviving the Hellenistic thesis.

Nonetheless, his central thesis that the Buddha was of Classical origin has become established.

For a compelling counter-argument to Foucher's essay, see Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, "The Origin of the Buddha Image."

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