Exposition : Imagining the Divine : Art and the Rise of World Religions

 

Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of World Religions

 

Ashmolean, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford

Jusqu’au 18 février 2018

 

Why do we think of Jesus Christ with a beard? Or Buddha as cross-legged? Today, the pictures people conjure when they think of the world’s major religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism – are distinctive and immediately recognisable. But two thousand years ago that was not the case.

 

Between 1–1000 AD, systems of belief developed across Europe and Asia. The images associated with them were forged not in isolation but in a vibrant exchange of ideas and in the contact between different societies and local traditions. One of the earliest known depictions of Christ shows a young man bearing a striking resemblance to a classical god, not the bearded holy-man we know today. Before the invention of the cross-legged figure in meditation, the Buddhist faithful were inspired to worship merely by an impression of the Buddha’s footprints. 

This unprecedented exhibition showcases some of the world’s oldest religious art from India to Ireland, and reveals how the exchange of ideas and objects in the first millennium influence our thinking about the Divine today. On display will be the first known depiction of Christ north of the Alps, as well as some of the first surviving Qurans.

 


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