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2. Torso of a Bodhisattva
Pakistan, Gandhara 2nd - 3rd century
Height 41 cm
Torso of a Bodhisattva

This torso of a bodhisattva is an iconic representative of the classically-inspired Buddhist art of Gandhara. The Hellenistic aesthetic is evident in the natural treatment of the elegantly draped robe, the hair and the abundant jewellery – a bracelet, a broad collar and a thickly-stranded necklace with a pair of makaras clutching a bead between their jaws. Large ear ornaments complete the parure of princely adornments.

The bodhisattva’s right hand is raised in abhaya mudra, the gesture of removing fear. His hair is handsomely arranged in curling locks with escaping strands undulating over his shoulders. His broad brow bears the urna that signifies his illumination and he wears a distinctive moustache. A significant part of the nimbus remains to encircle his head with its lotus-petalled rim.

This superb sculpture has been masterfully carved from a block of hard schist into the very image of serene spirituality. The finely arched eyebrows, large almond-shaped eyes and tranquil smile bestow upon the bodhisattva’s face a restful expression of imperturbable composure. At the same time the flow of the drapery folds, ornaments, necklace and raised hand create a sweeping organic rhythm that adds a sense of restrained power to the figure. Although this sculpture is a fragment with the lower part and left arm missing, the consummate skill of the Gandharan carvers enabled them to create an image whose intense energy and dynamic tension can be felt in every detail.

Collection Mr Sherrier, England, before 1986-1998.
Spink & Son Ltd, England, 1998-2000.
Galerie de Ruimte, the Netherlands, 2000.
Collection Mr H. Jansen, the Netherlands, 2000-2016.

I. Kurita, Gandhara Art, volume 2, The World of the Buddha, Japan, 2003, p. 31, fig. 66.

Ibidem, p. 31, figs. 62, 92, 94.

all text, images © Marcel Nies
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