Introduction

author: Stephen Markel, guest editor

from the Preface of ARS ORIENTALIS - SUPPLEMENT I 

ON ACCOUNT OF HIS BEING A WELL-WISHER of the world as well as by his happy and excellent rule, he was, indeed, always dear and accessible [to the people] like [their] father, mother and friend.

Little did the Vakataka minister Varahadeva know, when he had these words of praise about the father and glorious lineage of his king Hariseus inscribed in Cave 16 at Ajanta, that more than fifteen hundred years later the would be equally appropriate to another great patron of those majestic caves. Professor Walter M. Spink is widely regarded as the world's leading expert on the Ajanta caves. But he is far more than a mere art historian. His noble compassion for humankind, coupled with his impressive academic record and tremendous breadth of interest in the humanities of both the Orient and Occident, have elevated Professor Spink in the eyes of his peers to the status of senior scholar and, equally praiseworthy, a teacher who gives freely of himself so that others may come to enjoy the arts that so nurture all of our souls. Thus, this tribute volume is dedicated to Walter Spink with sincere fondness and respect. Its title, Chachaji (Beloved Uncle), is an appellation given to Walter in India by his students and long-time friends; it aptly conveys the deep affection with which he is regarded.

WALTER'S LIFE AND ACHIEVEMENTS are here introduced with a revealing biographical essay by Dr. Bonnie Brereton (University of Michigan, 1979-92) and an analysis of his scholarly oeuvre by Dr. Sara Weisblat Schastok (University of Michigan, 1969-80). Next a list of Professor Spink's numerous erudite publications documents his academic record. The esteem of Walter's colleagues is then demonstrated by six compelling tribute statements. Prof. Richard Evans recalls his crucial contribution to the distinguished Asian art presence in the Department of History of Art at the University of Michigan. Prof. Frederick M. Asher stresses his pivotal rolein establishing the American Committee for South Asian Art as a dynamic professional association for art historians of South and Southeast Asia. Prof. Susan L. Huntington praises Walter for his pioneering scholarly leadership and personal generosity. Prof. Michael M. Meister remembers meeting Walter and marvels at his humility of spirit for one so accomplished and respected. Prof. Janice Leoshko applauds Walter's longstanding regard for discerning the primacy of the artist in the creative process. Dr. Donald M. Stadtner (University of Michigan, 1969-71) tells of a side of Walter far removed from the caves of Ajanta yet no less significant for engendering our admiration.

In order to suggest the enduring influence of Professor Spink's life-long work and to provide him with a more personally meaningful tribute, the research articles in this volume have been contributed primarily by his former students, many who now hold key positions in leading universities and prestigious museums throughout the United States and India. A few of Walter's particularly close academic colleagues have also participated by submitting either articles or tribute statements. In fact, this guest editor's hardest task by far in this labor of love was deciding which of the many willing scholars to invite as contributors and who had to be regretfully omitted because of the volume's spatial and temporal limitations. In keeping with its emphasis on Professor Spink's areas of scholarly inquiry, the articles focus on his two main research topics: "Rock-cut Architecture of Western India" and "Theme of Krisna." In the former, Dr. Suresh Vasant analyzes two unique early Buddhist cave-temples to determine their temporal relationship. Prof. John C. Huntington with Chaya Chandrasekhar (Spink's Ajanta Site Seminar, 1993) studies the use of an important mudra at Ajanta and reflects on its Buddhological significance. Dr. Pia Brancaccio (University of Michigan and the ACSAA Color Slide Project, 1994-95) discusses the patronage and lay orientation of the Buddhist caves at Aurangabad. Prof. Joanna Williams examines the namesake of the Elephanta caves and the intriguing conceptual differences between guardian representations of pachyderms and their portrayals in site-related mythological tableaux. Dr. Stephen Markel (University of Michigan, 1977-89) identifies the narrative episodes in the extensive Ramayana frieze on the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora and suggests a possible underlying literary source.

The articles grouped under the rubric "Themes of Krisna" either explore depictions of Krsna in various regional traditions and media or use the image(s) of the deity as a starting point for more extended research. Dr. Donald M. Stadtner discusses the development and variations in the imagery of a momentous event in the early life of Krisna. Dr. Vishakha N. Desai (University of Michigan, 1974-77) examines the relationship of the detailed literary distinctions used to characterize Radha in the Rasikapriya and her modes of representation in illustrations of the text. Dr. Navel Krishna (University of Michigan, 1976-78) explicates the nature and art historical importance of Bikaneri presentation portraits of Krsna. Dr Robert J. Del Bonta (University of Michigan, 1971-78) studies the sophisticated narrative techniques and expressions in an extraordinary Bhagavatapurana manuscript from Mysore. Dr. John Listopad (University of Michigan, 1984-95) investigates the impact of two chief priests on the development of Krsna paintings at Nathdwara, Dr. Stanislaw J. Czuma (University of Michigan, 1961-68) traces the discovery and restoration of a major image of Krsna and its inaugural position in the history of Cambodian sculpture.

Many generous individuals and organizations helped to bring this tribute volume to fruition during the course of its seven-year gestation. I would thus like to thank all the contributing authors for their exceptional efforts and patience when pestered with questions of myriad minutiae; the financial sponsors without whose generosity this special volume would have been impossible; the administration of the Department of the History of Art and the editorial board of Ars Orientalis for their commitment in undertaking this publication; Dr Margaret Lourie, Managing Editor of Ars Orientalis, for her steadfast support and encouragement in the conception and production of the volume;  and Walter's loving wife, Nesta, for her eager participation in the merry conspiracy needed to produce this volume without Walter's prior knowledge and her many years of friendship to an evolving young graduate student.

Ultimately, it is Walter Spink who must be thanked the most for enriching the lives and artistic appreciation of so many students and colleagues, and for being such a resplendent embodiment of the joie de vivre that keeps us all forever young. In the elegant testimony of the American opera patron Otto Herman Kahn,

Those who love art and are truly susceptible to its spell, do die young in the sense that they remain young to their dying day.