100 AD to 400 AD
8″ (20.3cm) high
According to tradition Buddhism was first introduced into the Gandharan region under the patronage of Asoka, emperor of the Mauryan dynasty, in the third century B.C. The first significant physical remains to survive, including stupas and figurative sculpture, date from the first century B.C. Between c.100-400 A.D. sculptors working in schist, terracotta and stucco produced an astonishing number and variety of Buddhist images. Gandhara was situated at the crossroads between east and west and thus came under a wide variety of artistic influences, including Persian, Greek and Indian. It also became an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists from across Asia as it was claimed that events from the Buddha’s former lives had occurred in the area.
The modelling of this Buddha head is particularly fine. The topknot, the Gandharan version of the ushnisha, symbolising the Buddha’s spiritual wisdom and enlightenment, is set just off centre to the viewer’s left. The curls of the hair are implied through wide, tapering indentations in the stucco. The elongated earlobes, a reference to the historical Buddha’s former wealth, are completely intact. It is likely that the head was originally painted in colour as this was customary for religious sculpture. Today the surface is a pale cream/pink which enables the viewer to admire the delicacy of the carving. – (AM.0221)