Central Asia, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, Gandharan, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. An exquisite, life-size terracotta head of the Buddha, depicted nearly in the round, with a wavy coiffure, a generous ushnisha (topknot) as well as a painted red urna (dot on the forehead) symbolizing the Third Eye and the ability to see past the universe of suffering. The face is finely modeled with bold features including almond-shaped, downcast eyes - the irises painted a blue-grey, an elegantly arched browline outlined in black, leading to an aquiline nose, and full, closed lips painted coral pink. The drama of this visage with its stylized wavy tresses and meditative expression does not discount its naturalism. Notice how skillfully the sculptor rendered the philtrum (vertical groove in midline above the upper lip), the Cupid's bow of the upper lip, the tear troughs between the eyes and nose, the nasal bridge and nostrils, and the contours of the chin. In addition, the head is life size! Size: 6.5" W x 11.75" H (16.5 cm x 29.8 cm); 17" H (43.2 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. 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
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