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Huge Gandharan Schist Head of Man

Central Asia, Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, Gandharan Empire, ca. 2nd to 3rd century CE. An absolutely stunning and expertly carved grey schist, monumental head of the Buddha, depicted here in very high relief with a tremendous ushnisha (a topknot in the Gandharan tradition) as well as an urna (dot on the forehead) symbolizing the Third Eye and the ability to see past the universe of suffering. The face is finely carved with bold features including enormous, almond-shaped, downcast eyes, an elegantly arched and sharply ridged browline leading to an aquiline nose, and full, closed lips. The drama of this visage, however, does not discount the naturalism of the anatomy. Notice how skillfully the sculptor rendered details such as the philtrum (vertical groove in midline above the upper lip), the Cupid's bow of the upper lip, the tear troughs between the eyes and nose, the nasal bridge and nostrils, the contours of the chin, and the wavy tresses of his coiffure. Size: 6.5" L x 7.875" W x 12" H (16.5 cm x 20 cm x 30.5 cm); 18.625" H (47.3 cm) on included custom stand.

The Gandharan Empire made itself wealthy in part by controlling lucrative trade along the mountain passes between China in the East and the Near East and Mediterranean in the West; a great deal of this wealth went into local patronage of artisans and art. In the first century CE, Buddhism became fashionable amongst Gandharan elites, and the art produced at this time depicting the Buddha includes some of the most striking Buddhist images from the past. Their artistic tradition also reflects the conquest of Alexander the Great and the introduction of styles from all sides, blended into a uniquely Gandharan tradition, which this Buddha exemplifies. For example, the wavy tresses of hair of this sculpture and others from the same tradition were likely influenced by the Belvedere Apollo (ca. 330 BCE).

Condition: Old losses to top of ushnisha and some old chips to peripheries as shown. Tool marks to verso. Carved nearly in the round save the verso. Normal surface wear and expected earthen deposits. Black deposits to lower left cheek. Wonderfully preserved details on this monumental head.

Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection; ex-Boris Mussienko collection, Alexandria, Maryland, USA, acquired in the 1980s

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