Gandhara Stucco Head of a Bodhisattva

SKU LO.607

200 AD to 500 AD


9.0″ (22.9cm) high x 6.0″ (15.2cm) wide





Gallery Location



The ancient civilization of Gandhara was located in the region encompassing modern northeastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Situated at a confluence of trading paths along the Silk Route, the area was flooded in diverse cultural influences ranging from Greece to China. Gandhara flourished under the Kushan Dynasty and their great king, Kanishka, who is traditionally given credit for spreading the philosophies of Buddhism throughout central Asia and into China. This period is viewed as the most important era in the history of Buddhism. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, the creation of Greco-Bactrian kingdoms, and the general Hellenization of the subcontinent, Western aesthetics became prominent. Greek influence began permeating into Gandhara. Soon sculptors based the images of the Buddha on Greco-Roman models, depicting Him as a stocky and youthful Apollo, complete with stretched earlobes and loose monastic robes similar to a Roman toga. The extraordinary artistic creations of Gandhara reveal link between the different worlds of the East and West.

In the Buddhist religion, Bodhisattvas are souls who have attained enlightenment and no longer need to reincarnate, but forsake nirvana and choose to come back in order to alleviate the suffering of others. This stunning Gandharan stucco sculpture of the head of a Bodhisattva reveals that these spiritual beings were celebrated even then, as Buddhism began to spread from India eastwards. This head was likely once attached to a body, the whole of which probably stood in a niche on the exterior of a stupa or shrine. The head of this Bodhisattva is crowned in a magnificent, complex headdress that reveals his prestigious social stature. Some representations of Bohisattvas are believed to depict Gandharan kings and princes, as may be the case with this particular example. Surely the prominent pointed divot in his lips may be an attempt to individualize the otherwise idealized portrait. The angularity of the strongly defined brow, which merge at the bridge of the narrow nose, is charateristic of the Gandharan style. The artists of Gandhara were the first to represent the Buddha in his human form, as opposed to a symbol such as his footprint. This gorgeous head is a reminder of an ancient civilization that, although vanished, helped spread the teachings of enlightenment throughout the heart of Asia.

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