Gandhara, singular bodhisattvas

Ancient Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara, Stone, collection of Asia Society (New York), published on Himalayan Art Resources.

Departing from the greco-buddhist standards, this work depicts Avalokiteshvara with his hair tied in a fan-shaped bunch adorned with an effigy of Amitabha, no moustache, wearing only a lower garment held in place with a small belt, a broad sash across the hips, adorned with serpentine armbands, two necklaces, floral earrings and a sacred thread, flanked by a female attendant. He holds the stem of what may have been a lotus in his left hand.

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, bodhisattva, grey schist, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This bodhisattva, possibly Avalokiteshvara (he seems to be holding a lotus), has a tiny head in comparison with the broad shoulders, big arms and large rectangular torso. He is adorned with a foliate crown, uncommon for this period and area, and is seated on a cushion over a base decorated with a geometrical pattern. We can see remains of a back plate. As is traditional in Gandharan art, his upper garment covers the left shoulder and forearm while the other side is uncovered and reveals an armband and he wears bulky necklaces, one of them across the chest.

1st-4th century, Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kushan period, bodhisattva, grey schist, at the Patna Museum in Bihar, photo from the Huntington Archive.

This may also be Avalokiteshvara in his padmapani form, with a moon-like face, no moustache, the same type of body proportions and accessories but a headdress typical of the Kushan period, seated on a cushion over a lotus with flat pointed petals and sepals going downwards. His tight-fitting garment has sharp pleating with deep grooves, the lower part is arranged in a rectangular shape over the base.

1st century, Afghanistan, Sahr i Bahlol, Avalokiteshvara, schist, photo by Jyoti Srivastava.

For comparison, a standard greco-buddhist sculpture of a bodhisattva, his hair gathered in a scallop-shaped bunch, adorned with a crown, a short and a medium length necklace over the chest, another two necklaces, going round the right shoulder and across the chest respectively, wearing a shawl over his left shoulder and right arm, his lower garment neatly arranged in the same specific manner as the first seated buddha above.

7th-8th century, late Gandharan period, Afghanistan, found near Kabul, Maitreya, schist, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (USA).

This post-Gandharan work has the quality of greco-buddhist sculpture  but exaggerated body proportions. The bodhisattva’s hair is gathered in a rigid bunch that forms a straight line, contrasting with the  long ribbons that flow on each side of his face; the folds of his shawl on the left shoulder are unusually sinuous. He holds a water pot between his hands, against his heart (instead of by the neck, over his lap).

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Gandhara, Shakyamuni

5th-6th century, Gandhara, Pakistan, Shakyamuni, bronze with silver inlay, Kushan period, private collection, photo by Gandhara gallery, published on http://www.asianart.com

This buddha with large hands and feet, his robe covering both shoulders and forming soft transversal pleats across the chest and concentric folds below, has silver-inlaid eyes, a plump oval face, sharp nose and fleshy lips (often seen on Central Asian sculptures), elongated earlobes and thick hair curls gathered in a bun (ushnisha).

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, bronze, photo by Trustees of the British Museum, at the British Museum in London (UK).In a previous post we saw several buddhas, all dating from the 5th to 7th century, with a similar radiating mandorla with ‘spikes’ ending with a triple gem. They vary in style, the above belongs to the more graceful ones with harmonious body proportions.

6th century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, bronze,  recent patina, private collection, photo by Koller.

Some of them only have the ‘spikes’ around the halo and a five-petal floral design around the body. They stand on a Kashmir-style stepped plinth and the buddha has a short trunk, squarish feet and a rigid countenance, as above. His robe describes a U shape at the front and reveals a larger portion of his loose-fitting undergarment.

6th century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, copper alloy and silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Astamangala on http://www.astamangala.com.

 

 

Gandhara, lay people

4th-5th century, Gandhara, Kushan period, adoring attendant, stucco and traces of pigments, at the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

4th-5th century, Gandhara, Kushan period, adoring attendant, stucco and traces of pigments, at the Cleveland Museum of Art (USA).

This life-like devotee wears the same type of  jewellery as the one we have seen on bodhisattvas from the same period and area, with a floral motif also used on his headdress.

4th-5th century, Gandhara culture, Pakistan, painted limestone, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (UK).

4th-5th century, Gandhara culture, Pakistan, painted limestone, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (UK).

Again, the man wears elaborate jewellery and headdress, a thin lower garment and an upper one worn over the left shoulder, leaving the chest bare. The facial features are alike, a plump oval face with a pointed nose, thin eyebrows, a small chin. The woman’s garment is held in place with a belt, she wears bulky earrings, a headband and plain armbands.

 

Buddhas with unusual features

3rd-4th century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, polychrome stucco, private collection, photo by Christie's.

3rd-4th century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, polychrome stucco, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

This is a rare image of the historical buddha with his right arm under his robe, the hand coming out from above to hold the cloth.

4th century circa, Afghanistan, infant buddha, private collection.

4th century circa, Afghanistan, baby buddha, private collection.

If sculptures of Shakyamuni as an infant are few, those of him as a baby are even fewer. The above is adorned with jewellery, a scarf and a flower in his soft curly hair.

5th-6th century, Pakistan, Kahujo Daro, Shakyamuni, terracotta, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (UK).

5th-6th century, Pakistan, from the Kahu-jo Daro stupa, Shakyamuni, terracotta, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (UK).

This famous buddha’s halo is decorated with a singular floral and foliate relief.

Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara (stone)

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara, grey schist, private collection, photo by Christie's.

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara, grey schist, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The second most popular bodhisattva in that area, Avalokiteshvara is portrayed very much like Maitreya (an athletic young man, with a thin nose and a moustache, elegantly draped and adorned with jewellery and an elaborate head dress). He is identified through the lotus he holds – in this case between his hands.

2nd-3rd-c-gandhara-avalokiteshvara-grey-schist-holds-lotus-927-cm-close-up-christies

He is adorned with necklaces, armbands, earrings, and an elaborate headdress.

3rd century, Gandhara, bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Padmapani, schist, private collection

3rd century, Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara, schist, private collection.

This work depicts him with the same facial features and earrings, a similar headdress and overall style, a broken halo but a preserved lotus pedestal. It is a perfect illustration of the fine workmanship and harmonious proportions which the area is famous for.

3rd century, Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara, grey schist, at the Matsuoka Museum in Tokyo (Japan), published on wikemedia.

3rd century, Gandhara, Avalokiteshvara, grey schist, at the Matsuoka Museum in Tokyo (Japan), published on wikemedia.

Both in the Gandharan culture and posterior Swat Valley art, Avalokiteshvara is often depicted in a pensive mood, i.e. a leg pendant, his head leaning to the right, the arm resting on his knee. This unusual image shows one of his sandals on the stool on which his left foot his resting. He holds a lotus downwards in his left hand.

5th century circa, Gandhara, North West Pakistan, Avalokiteshvara, schist, published on asianartresources.com

5th century circa, Gandhara, North West Pakistan, Avalokiteshvara, schist, published by asianartresource.com

Avalokiteshvara in his padmapani form, with a hairstyle typical of the area, holds the long stem of a lotus in his left hand and a garland in the other.

Gandhara, Maitreya – seated (stone)

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, North West Pakistan, Maitreya, stone, private collection, published on asianartresource.com

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, North West Pakistan, Maitreya, stone, private collection, published on asianartresource.com

Not all Gandharan art displays the same facial features. This Maitreya has a plump face and no moustache. He is adorned with the standard jewellery and sits on a throne with a fire altar scene at the front, holding a pot of water, both hands in the meditation gesture.

3rd century, Gandhara, Maitreya, grey schist, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

3rd century, Gandhara, Maitreya, grey schist, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The pot of water is usually held by the neck. It may be elongated, as on the previous picture, oval as above or round as below.

3rd century, Gandhara, Pakistan, Maitreya, schist, at the Royal Ontario Museum (Canada).

3rd century, Gandhara, Pakistan, Maitreya, schist, at the Royal Ontario Museum (Canada).

The lion throne may be covered with a loose cloth, as above.

Gandhara, Shakyamuni – stone

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, schist, at the Lahore Museum (Pakistan).

2nd-3rd century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, schist, at the Lahore Museum (Pakistan).

Shakyamuni stands on a plinth decorated with figures standing near a fire altar, his robe covering both shoulders, his feet bare, the left hand holding a piece of his garment, the other (probably) doing the fear-allaying gesture. He has life-like facial features, a raised urna on his forehead, thick wavy hair piled into a soft bun.

Same as before, private collection, photo by Christie's.

Same as before, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Shakyamuni,  accompanied by a royal donor,  with a plump face and a solar disc behind his head.

3rd century, Gandhara, Pakistan, grey schist, at the New Delhi National Museum.

3rd century, Gandhara, Pakistan, grey schist, at the New Delhi National Museum.

More often than not the halo is just a plain disc. The above stands on a lotus base, with a row of stamens and two rows of petals going downwards.

3rd century, Gandhara, Pakistan, Kushan period, Shakyamuni, schist, at the Peshawar Museum (Pakistan).

This one, on a plinth decorated with a floral motif.

3rd-4th century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, schist, at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum

3rd-4th century, Gandhara, Shakyamuni, schist, at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum

As we have seen with bronze sculptures from the area, he sometimes has abnormally reduced legs and feet.