Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Gandharan Empire, ca. 3rd to mid 5th century CE. A beautifully contemplative stucco head of a youthful Buddha, known as Shakyamuni Buddha and formerly Siddhartha Gautama, the crown prince of the Shakya Kingdom. Originally the head would have been sculpted nearly in the round, with characteristically long ears emphasizing Prince Siddhartha's rejection of the material world. He is shown after his enlightenment, as evidenced by his ushnisha, the rounded projection from the top of his head that symbolizes his newfound knowledge. The face is finely modeled with symmetrical features including almond-shaped, downcast eyes, an elegantly arched browline leading to an aquiline nose, and full, closed lips. His face appears to be in meditation, looking inward rather than out at the viewer. Size: 9.5" L x 8" W x 12.25" H (24.1 cm x 20.3 cm x 31.1 cm); 12.5" H (31.8 cm) on included custom stand.
Gandharans are famous for schist and stucco carvings, with stucco replacing schist as the dominant 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 gentle curve of the brow 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.
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. For example, the wavy tresses of hair of this sculpture and others from the same tradition were likely influenced by the Belvedere Apollo (ca. 330 BCE).
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Virginia and Edward Dellinger collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 1970s
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The front of the head is in good condition, including the face, left ear, and most of the hairline. The back of the head and one ear/cheek have been restored using modern stucco. Back of head is partially lost. The restoration is well done and unobtrusive. Facial features are in beautiful condition with light deposits.