Northwest Pakistan, Gandharan, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. A poignant and skillfully hand-carved Gandharan grey schist relief depicting a bearded male ascetic holding a sinuous serpent and placing his left arm around a young attendant who holds an alms bowl and looks up at his elder with reverence. The man dons flowing robes, with carefully delineated folds of drapery billowing over his body cinched at the waist with a beaded belt and a matching beaded band around his upswept coiffure. The youth is also draped in flowing garments, and his handsome face is topped by a curly coiffure. The figures' heads gently turn toward one another, their sensitively carved visages communicating an engaging moment. Size: 5.5" W x 9.5" H (14 cm x 24.1 cm); 10.875" H (27.6 cm) on included custom stand.
The Gandharan Empire made itself wealthy in part by controlling lucrative trade along the mountain passes between China in the East and the Near East and Mediterranean in the West; a great deal of this wealth went into local patronage of artisans and art. In the first century CE, Buddhism became fashionable amongst Gandharan elites, and visual culture produced at this time depicting Buddhist themes is quite striking. Their artistic tradition also reflects the conquest of Alexander the Great and the blending of styles from East and West resulting in a uniquely Gandharan tradition. Alexander the Great conquered Gandhara in 330 BCE and with the help of the Indo-Greek kings introduced classical traditions that would influence Gandharan art for the following seven centuries.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private Mazard family collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1990s; ex-Joe Gerena Fine Arts, New York, USA, acquired in the early 1990s; ex-Benjamin Rice, Jr. collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1980s
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Losses to peripheries of the panel, the boys' feet, areas of coiffure, and other high-pointed areas. Perforations on verso, presumably for former attachment. Normal surface wear commensurate with age. Deposits grace the surface.