Central Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Gandharan Empire, ca. 3rd to mid 5th century CE. A massive stucco head of a prince, modeled in the traditional Greco-Buddhist tradition with a full face, fine almond eyes, a naturalistic nose, sensitive mouth, and a large, ornate headdress, similar to a turban, atop the head. Alexander the Great conquered Gandhara in 330 BCE and the reign of Indo-Greek kings who followed him introduced classical traditions that would influence Gandharan art for the following seven centuries. The stylized, curly Mediterranean hair and top knot derive from classical sculptures such as the Apollo Belvedere (330 BCE), and the sensitive modeling of the expressive face demonstrates a classical influence as well, while keeping many of the stylistic elements, like the focus on the large eyes, of Indian artwork. 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 Prince Siddhartha. Size: 11.5" L x 13.5" W x 21" H (29.2 cm x 34.3 cm x 53.3 cm); 28.25" H (71.8 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.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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