Eastern Medieval Pala Art

The period between the eighth and twelfth centuries in Bihar witnessed the rise of a great school of stone and bronze sculpture and manuscript painting under the patronage of the Pala kings. Nalanda in Magadh was the principal center of production. The Tibetan tradition, as recorded by Taranath, names Dhiman and Bitpalo as being the founders of the schools of cast-metal images, sculpture and a painting during the reigns of Dharmapala and Devapala. The Eastern School of Sculpture shows distinct signs of being a direct descendant of the plastic art of the Gupta period and in it were embodied and perpetuated the eastern features of the classical tradition, features like elegance, dignity, precision and sensuous serenity. In the eighth century, this sculpture exhibits a distinctive linear tendency mingled with a firm cut line and tight modeling. The ninth-century at pieces reveal both simplicity and restraint; in the tenth century they reveal elegance, sublimity and sobriety, but in the eleventh, they show traces of exhaustion and decline and emphasize detail at the expense of plastic conception'. This tendency is further accentuated in the twelfth century.
The Eastern school produced, besides a fair quantity of Vaishnava images, a series of bronze figures along with stone sculpture. Nalanda and Kurkihar were the main centers where the bronzes of the period were produced between the ninth and eleventh centuries. The art of metal casting attained a degree of excellence at Kurkihar (Kukkutapadagiri), a Buddhist center, and Nalanda unknown to other regions.

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