Joyau de l'art bouddhique
Photographs by Caroline and Hughes Dubois
The Buddhist monument of Borobudur was built in the eighth and ninth centuries on the island of Java. It is one of the most famous and studied religious buildings in the world, but it is also one of the most enigmatic. Since it was rediscovered by the West at the start of the nineteenth century, its ruins–swallowed up by the tropical jungle, suggestive of an ancient civilisation with a glorious past–have constantly been a source of fascination. Its unusual structure in the form of a tiered pyramid, its huge size, and the delicacy of its low reliefs, which include some 1,300 carved narrative panels, have ensured that Borobudur has taken its rightful place among the masterpieces of the world’s architectural heritage. However, given the absence of reliable historical documentation, a wide variety of hypotheses have been advanced to shed light on the secrets of its form, iconographic repertoire, and symbolism.
This exhibition catalogue illustrates the monument of Borobudur in fifty photographs of the low reliefs, lit only by moonlight, taken by Caroline and Hughes Dubois. These very special images give these carvings astonishing volume and presence. They are complemented by Dutch paintings and watercolours of the nineteenth century that illustrate the state of the monument before it was restored under the aegis of UNESCO in the 1970s, and by Buddhist sculptures made of stone and marble that have been borrowed from the Rijksmuseum and Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam and from the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart. In her introductory texts, the author, Helen Loveday, presents an account of the debates and research on Borobudur currently taking place.
Helen Loveday studied Chinese at Oxford University, where she was awarded a doctorate for a thesis on ancient Chinese archaeology. She is a curator at the Baur Foundation, Museum of Far Eastern Art, and teaches Asian art at Geneva University. For 5Continents Editions she published Japanese Buddhist Textiles in 2014.
Hughes Dubois is a photographer of objets d’art and in the advertising business who works for institutions and collectors in Europe and elsewhere in the world.