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Carlton Rochell Asian Art

Bodhisattva Maitreya
Pakistan, ancient region of Gandhara
circa 3rd century
Gray schist
Height: 233⁄4 in. (60.3 cm.)

Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, sits regally in dhyanasana upon a fabric-draped throne that is decorated by a central image of a ceremonial fire pot. Not yet having relinquished his princely garments and jewelry, the bodhisattva is richly adorned by a finely-carved necklace with animal terminals, string of amulet boxes, sacred cord of seed pearls associated with the upper caste, trefoil armbands, bracelets, a pair of animal- shaped earrings, and garlands of jewels woven throughout his hair. His earthly identity is further enhanced by the presence of a wavy moustache and thick masses of curls that fall across his shoulders. Rendered with an exceptional sense of naturalism, the muscles of the bodhisattva’s torso and the features of his face are strong. At one time, Maitreya’s hands would likely have been raised in abhyamudra on the right and lowered to hold a water vessel in the left. Although princely in appearance, the presence of a raised urna between his eyebrows and a fragmentary circular nimbus behind his head attest to Maitreya’s divine status.[1]

This image was created in a region known as Gandhara, which at the time encompassed northwest India, Pakistan, and the southern areas of Afghanistan. It formed the heartland of the Kushan Empire and benefited economically from the northern trade along the silk route. The region was strongly Buddhist and developed a distinctive school of art that adapted Greco-Roman figural forms. Under the Kushans, in probably the second quarter of the first century A.C.E.,[2] images of Maitreya began to be highly venerated as Buddhism turned its focus to the future. Worshippers looked to the bodhisattva, Sakyamuni’s Brahmin successor who was waiting for his last reincarnation in the heavens of Tushita, as a source of inspiration and guidance. The form in which he is depicted in the present example, seated with his legs crossed upon a throne, is most typical of later Gandharan Maitreya imagery.

Mathias Komor, New York, 1964

[1] For a related example, see Kalista and Rochell (2008), cat. no. 14. See also Kurita (2003), nos. 88–91 for seated Maitreya images.
[2] See Luczantis (2009), p. 249.

all text, images Carlton Rochell Asian Art


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