Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Gandharan Empire, ca. 3rd to mid-5th century CE. A massive stucco head portraying the Buddha's face with sensitively-modeled features characteristic of traditional Greco-Buddhist stylization. His serene visage is defined by ovoid eyes with extended corners beneath heavy lids, gently curving brows which taper downward to form the naturalistic nose, full lips with indented corners, a rounded chin, tall ears with drooping lobes, and a smooth brow. Locks of curly, tightly-bound hair form the heart-shaped hairline and culminate in a hemispherical ushnisha on top. Size: 7.25" W x 11.375" H (18.4 cm x 28.9 cm); 17.9" H (45.5 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 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. 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.
A stylistically-similar example of a smaller size hammered for $50,000 at Christie's, New York "Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art" auction (sale 3716, March 18, 2015, lot 4001): https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/sculptures-statues-figures/a-stucco-head-of-buddha-gandhara-4th5th-5878271-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5878271&sid=7a0c3739-1b3f-4db7-a7c1-1567c821b231
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-private Dellinger collection, acquired in the 1970s
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This is a fragment from a larger stucco object. Losses to back of head and areas of ears, neck line, nose, hair, and ushnisha. Abrasions and nicks to hair, face, ears, and verso, with softening to some finer details, light encrustations and calcifications, and darkening to top of ushnisha. Nice earthen deposits throughout.