Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Gandharan Empire, ca. 200 CE. A larger-than-lifesize, finely carved and polished grey schist head of Buddha, marked by a sensitively modeled face with solemn, half-closed eyes of an elegant almond shape, a long aquiline nose, and a gentle smile, all projecting a strong sense of peace. The hair is styled into a large ushnisha. The shiny stone appears inky black in the light, and the symmetrical carving makes this a particularly elegant example of Greco-Buddhist art that demonstrates a strong syncretism between eastern and western traditions. Size: 10.5" W x 15.5" H (26.7 cm x 39.4 cm); 19" H (48.3 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 the art produced at this time depicting the Buddha includes some of the most striking Buddhist images from the past. Their artistic tradition also reflects the conquest of Alexander the Great and the introduction of styles from all sides, blended into a uniquely Gandharan tradition, which this Buddha exemplifies. 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. The stylized wavy Mediterranean hair and top knot that derive from the Apollo Belvedere (330 BCE), as well as the sensitive modeling of the tranquil face displayed on this piece, for example, exhibit this classical influence.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Heather James Art and Antiquities, Palm Desert, California, USA, acquired in 2007; ex-private American collection, acquired in 1982; ex-Odile Cavendish collection, London, acquired before 1982
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Surface wear commensurate with age, including chips, nicks, and scratches. The tips of both ears are lost but otherwise the piece is in nice condition with its surface well polished and its details in excellent condition.