Central Asia, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, Gandharan Empire, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A gorgeous, mold-formed stucco head of an elderly male, naturalistically presented in the traditional Graeco-Buddhist style which was so popular during this time. The head is composed of a gaunt face with recessed eyes beneath heavy brows, large ears with elongated lobes, a flowing mustache above an abundant beard, and well-contoured cheeks, all set beneath a bald pate. The head's somewhat emaciated depiction suggests he is an ascetic, an individual who foregoes any form of indulgence or physical pleasure to maintain and demonstrate their religious devotion. Much Gandharan sculpture from this time period depicts the Buddha, but this example has no hallmarks suggesting that it is him or a representation of an elderly Prince Siddhartha. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 7" W x 10.75" H (17.8 cm x 27.3 cm); 15.875" H (40.3 cm) on included custom stand.
Gandharans are famous for schist and stucco carvings, with stucco replacing schist as the dominant sculptural material around the 3rd century CE. Vast monastic institutions like those at Takht-i-Bahi, Sahri-Bahlol, Jamal Garhi, Ranigat, and Thareli were decorated by skilled artisans with stucco representations of important figures, religious scenes, and artistic dedications. Stucco allowed artists more freedom in portraying lifelike features, as shown in the gaunt features of the face here. During this time, Gandhara was exceptionally wealthy, profiting from trade along the Silk Road; patrons had resources to spend on the arts, creating a flowering of stucco artwork. Some monumental statues had stucco hands, feet, and heads alongside clay torsos - the size of these figures was such that clay was needed to maintain their form.
For a stylistically-similar example from later in the Gandharan Empire, please see the Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, accession number EA1993.22: http://jameelcentre.ashmolean.org/collection/4/6739/6746/11331
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private New Jersey, USA collection, acquired in the 1990s; ex-private major art gallery, Beverly Hills, California, USA, acquired in the 1980s
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Repaired from multiple large pieces with resurfacing and light overpainting along break lines; small areas of restoration along eyes, beard, and face. Chips and abrasions to neck, head, beard, and nose, with softening to some finer details, and light encrustations within some recessed areas. Nice earthen deposits throughout.