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date: 15 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the historical usage of the term “iconography,” how Erwin Panofsky (1892–1968) developed it into a fundamental method of art historical analysis, and considers the applications of this method to the contemporary study of Buddhist art. It explores the broad range of signification of the term “icon,” and contends that the polysemic potential of images matches that of words, which can complicate attempts to oversimplify the relationship between iconography and identity. Various possibilities for compound layering, slippage, or disjunction between iconography and identity are enumerated, using examples from Buddhist art. It concludes that the iconography of contemporary Buddhist is poised between regional developments and broader global trends, manifesting in imaginative innovations and the creative adaptation or revival of earlier forms.

Keywords: Buddhism, icon, iconography, Panofsky, art history

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