A large Gandhara Stucco Head of the Buddha, ca. 3rd century AD


This fine stucco piece, with its serene expression and youthful Hellenic features depicts the head of a Buddha.   The ushnisha, or cranial bump on top of the head, a sign of the Buddha's omniscience, has been transformed into an elegant topknot surmounting hair rendered by semi-circular bands of black wavy curls.  Good traces of the original polychromy survive; red pigment is visible along the hairline, ears and on the bow-shaped mouth; the almond-shaped eyes are rimmed in Egyptian blue, the arched eyebrows in black.  The urna, one of the lakshana, or magical marks of the Buddha, is visible on the forehead.

The western nature of the art of Gandhara can be understood in the context of the many Greek outposts founded across Asia by Alexander the Great (reigned 336–323 BC), who reached India in 327 BC. The Gandhara style exemplifies Indian Buddhist ideals combined with the best of the Greco-Roman artistic tradition as expressed by artists working on the fringes of the Hellenistic world. This serene Buddha head is the work of an accomplished artist and is a fine example of an image created during the second century.

Condition:  Loss to the back of the head that does not detract, with excellent remaining polychrome in black, red and Egyptian blue, the face intact, and beautifully rendered, the surface finely polished.  

Dimensions:  Height: 15 1/2 inches (39.37 cm), Width: 8 1/2 inches (21.6 cm)

Provenance:  Private NY collection, acquired in Afghanistan in the 1960s, thereafter private Boston collection acquired around 2000.

Category: Over $10000, Sculpture

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