This Gandharan schist head likely represents Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha, prior to his enlightenment, which accounts for his princely garb. He is adorned with a crown that has a shell shaped emblem, as well as earrings. Typical of Gandharan sculptures of this period are the finely arched eyebrows, almond-shaped half-closed eyes, straight nose, and undulating mustache.
The piece measures 6 1/2" high by 3 3/4" wide by 3 1/2" deep. It is in fine condition – it would appear that the front of the head was separated from the back at some early point during the excavation of the piece and re-attached. It is mounted on a wooden stand that is 3" wide by 2 1/4" deep by 1/4" thick.
Siddhārtha was born more than 200 years before the reign of the Maurya king Aśoka (lived 304–232 BCE). The Gandharan Empire was in existence during the 3rd and 4th centuries, AD, and was located in what is now largely occupied by North West India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The art and sculpture of the region that has come to be known as Gandhara combines Hellenistic or Greco-Roman artistic techniques and modelling 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. Gandharan artists were concerned with the naturalistic modeling and the rendering of garments and embellishment in realistic detail.
Gautama was born a prince, destined to a luxurious life, with three palaces. His father, King Śuddhodana, wishing for Gautama to be a great king, shielded his son from religious teachings or knowledge of human suffering. While venturing outside of his palace, Gautama saw an old crippled man (old age), a diseased man (illness), a decaying corpse (death), and an ascetic. Abandoning his inheritance, he dedicated his life to learning how to overcome suffering. He meditated with two hermits, and, although he achieved high levels of meditative consciousness, he was still not satisfied with his path. After discarding asceticism and concentrating on meditation, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way—a path of moderation.