Buddhist art has a very strict iconography. Every gesture and form has a symbolic meaning which leaves little room to the creativity of the sculptor.

For these reasons it is not easy to classify chronologically objects of Buddhist art.

One criterion for judgement is offered by the facial expression, if it has the mystical aura that only an artist who was a believer could give, or the loving and patient execution of details like hands or hair. Unbelieving forgers produce lifeless figures with insignificant features and an empty gaze.


As regards scientific tests carried out on Asian art works in bronze, wood and stone, the same rules and techniques apply as those used for European objects made from the same materials. It must be borne in mind, however, that Asians – and the Chinese in particular – take a different attitude towards copies. For them, copying the masters of the past is considered a virtue and surpassing them an honour. An honest copy is held to be almost on a par with the original and commands a high price on the market, particularly if it has substituted a sacred object in a temple or a monastery. Fakes, instead, are produced for export. Objects made to be sold can be recognized also by their excessive beauty and rich details, as well as their unusually great size.


Judging authenticity on the basis of aesthetic factors is made even more difficult by the fact that venerated statues in Buddhist temples and monasteries, if damaged, were for the most part substituted by copies which were made to look as similar as possible to the original.

Objects on wood can be dated by the spectroscopic method (


Detailed information on our site and in Volume 3 of our Museum’s handbook (p.81-97).