• Indian and Southeast Asian Art auction at Christies

    Sale 2195

    Indian and Southeast Asian Art

    16 September 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 734

    Two rare tetradrachm copper coins of Buddha


    Price Realised  


    Two rare tetradrachm copper coins of Buddha
    Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century
    Each with an image of a standing King Kanishka with staff, one with an image of Shakyamuni Buddha and inscribed in Bactrian with his name 'BOUDO;' the other with an image of a seated Maitreya and inscribed with his name 'BOUDO'
    1 in. (2.5 cm) in diameter, each (2)

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    Under the Kushan king and important Buddhist patron Kanishka I, during the first quarter of the 2nd century, coins bearing his image together with that of Buddha on the obverse were issued for the first time.
    The depiction of Buddha is frontal as opposed to the convention of depicting gods or kings on coins with face in profile, as the coin makers were most likely adhering to sculptural prototypes conceived as frontal images. The variations of images indicate that during the reign of Kanishka I, a canon of sculptural images was already in existence, thus providing important evidence for the chronology and development of Gandharan sculpture. It further represents an important step in the history of Buddhism, fittingly placing Buddha on the face of a coin reserved for gods for the first time.
    Examples of this type are extremely rare. J. Cribb, in 'A re-examination of the Buddha images on the coins of King Kanishka: New light on the origins of the Buddha image in Gandharan art', Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia, 1985, pp. 59-87, describes a total of 23 copper coins representing 11 dies. The present coins correspond to Cribb F1 and C4.


    Private collection, Japan, 1980s

    Pre-Lot Text