A Gandharan Schist Bust of Buddha - 2nd-4th Century

A Gandharan Schist Bust of Buddha - 2nd-4th Century

Gandhāra is noted for the distinctive Gandhāran style of Buddhist art, a consequence of merger of Greek, Syrian, Persian and Indian art traditions. This is a particularly   beautiful piece that dates from the 2nd/4th century. Terracotta examples are very rare as only very few survived and are seldom seen. In Gandhara, Mahayana Buddhism flourished and Buddha was represented in human form.

Buddha was born in 553 BC. From the earliest days, Buddha was portrayed in art as a symbol such as a Wheel - a Pearl- a Footprint -  etc. As the Buddhists noticed other religions portraying their deities in human form, they turned to the local sculptors to make depictions of the Buddha in a human form.

In the 4th Century BC this region constituted the farthest reaches of the Greek Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great. The soldiers of Alexander the Great had brought their families with them - and, amongst these families were sculptors and other artists. Thus  the portrayals of Buddha by these artists had an unmistakable Graeco/Roman influence.

This combination of Graeco/Roman characteristics included the togas and curly hair seen on the early Greek and Roman sculpture. Thus we find these features in the Gandharan Buddha. This combination of Greek sculpture with Buddhist iconology has intrigued us from the moment we first saw Gandharan pieces.

Gandharan artists were concerned with the naturalistic modeling in realistic detail. These works were largely destroyed by the Taliban in recent years - this one came out before their terrible regime was ended.

Art such as this was produced in Ancient Ghandara, a great kingdom located in the region of the Potohar plateau and the northern side of the KabulRiverin modern-day Pakistan/Afghanistan. The Gandharan Empire was located in what is now largely occupied by North West India, Pakistanand Afghanistan.

The art and sculpture of the region that has come to be known as Gandhāra combines Hellenistic or Graeco-Roman artistic techniques and modeling with Indian Buddhist iconography to create a recognizably Indian hybrid. By the end of the 1st century these aesthetic traditions had developed into a recognizable Gandharan style. Sculpture in stone, usually Schist, are considered to predate those made from Stucco although both materials were used from an early date.

Immediately following the Parthian period, Ghandaran’s artistic "Golden Age" flourished where some of the finest sculptures were produced of any Ancient Civilization. Gandhāran style flourished and achieved its peak during the Kushan period, from the 1st to the 5th century. It declined and suffered destruction after invasion of the White Huns in the 5th century.

Stucco as well as stone was widely used by sculptors in Gandhara for the decoration of monastic and cult buildings. Stucco provided the artist with a medium of great plasticity, enabling a high degree of expressiveness to be given to the sculpture. Sculpting in stucco was popular wherever Buddhism spread from Gandhara - India, Afghanistan, Central Asiaand China.

By 90 BC the Parthians had taken control of eastern Iranand in around 50 BC they put an end to the last remnants of Greek rule in Afghanistan. Eventually an Indo-Parthian dynasty succeeded in taking control of Gandhara. The Parthians continued to support Greek artistic traditions. In the 4th Century BC, however, this region constituted the farthest reaches of the Greek Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great. The start of the Gandharan Greco-Buddhist art is dated to about 75–50 BC.

The Gandhara civilization peaked during the reign of the great Kushan king Kanishka (128–151). The cities of Taxila (Takshasila) at Sirsukh and Peshawarwere built. Peshawarbecame the capital of a great empire stretching from Gandhara to Central Asia. Kanishka was a great patron of the Buddhist faith; Buddhism spread to Central Asiaand the Far Eastacross Bactriaand Sogdia, where his empire met the Han Empire of China. Buddhist art spread from Gandhara to other parts of Asia. Under Kanishka, Gandhara became a holy land of Buddhism and attracted Chinese pilgrims to see monuments associated with many Jataka tales.