1. A highly important and rare bronze standing figure of Buddha
5th - 6th c.; Gandhara Kushan Period
Oxford TL test is consistent with the expected age.
The Buddha stands with his right hand raised in abhayamudra and his left clutches the folds of his voluminous sanghati and the cascading drapery reveals the soft and fleshy body beneath. The face is finely cast with silver-inlaid eyes and urna, full lips and heavy-lidded eyes flanked by pendulous earlobes, and the hair is in tight curls over the ushnisha.
This magnificent figure of Buddha belongs to an extremely rare type of bronze figure cast in the regions of ancient Gandhara and the Swat Valley in the fifth through seventh centuries. The bronze is a masterpiece of the Buddha image, illustrating the exquisite marriage of the contemporary Gupta style with the earlier influences of Hellenistic Gandhara.
During the Kushan period, Gandhara was a fervent centre of Buddhism, with thousands of monasteries sprawled across the wide riverine plains and tucked away in the more remote valleys north of the Kabul River. The demand for images of the Buddha was great and the vast quantity of works in schist and stucco, and to a lesser degree terracotta and bronze, illustrates the rich artistic tradition of the region. The decline of the Kushans, however, precipitated the invasion of the Huns in the middle of the fifth century, and the peace and splendour of Gandhara was destroyed. Those that survived sought refuge in the remote valleys of Swat and the Hindu Kush, where Buddhism quietly endured until the invasion of Muslim forces in the tenth and eleventh centuries.
During the fifth through seventh centuries, the period referred to as Post-Gandhara, the production of large Buddhist works in stone and stucco declined, while the creation of smaller scale images in bronze reached a zenith. This phenomenon must be explained in part by the new conditions of Buddhist worship during this time; except for certain sites such as Bamiyan, the large and wealthy monasteries of the previous era had been replaced by smaller, migratory groups of worshippers. The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang, who traveled to India in the first half of the seventh century, described the situation in Swat as follows: “There had formerly been 1400 monasteries but many of these were now in ruins, and once there had been 18,000 [Buddhist] Brethren but these had gradually decreased until only a few remained” (U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, p. 72). Pushed to the margins of society, the Buddhist adherents could no longer afford to commission large and permanently installed works. Images in stucco were extremely fragile, while works in schist were too heavy to transport. Bronze, on the other hand, was durable, and when scaled down to a small size and cast in several parts, could be bundled up and carried from place to place. Despite the reduced size, the present work would no doubt have been an expensive and precious object of veneration.
Similar examples including two figures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
For standing Gandhara bronze Buddha figures compare: U. von Schroeder "Indo-Tibetan Bronzes“ 1981, p. 78ff.
Oxford TL test certificate accompanies this image
Detail: alternate view
Detail: close-up view