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A Monumental Gray Schist Figure of a Bodhisattva
Property from a Private Dutch Collection
A Monumental Gray Schist Figure of a Bodhisattva


A Monumental Gray Schist Figure of a Bodhisattva
Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century
78 ¾ in. (200 cm.) high
Acquired from Sotheby's London, 27 April 1995, lot 188.
Sale Room Notice
Kindly note there are restorations to the joins between the face, the back of the head, the neck, and the body, and that the head is of the period but possibly associated. Full details are available in the updated condition report.

Lot Essay

The present figure is extraordinarily large and beautifully carved, making it one of the most rare Gandharan figures in circulation. Note how the diaphanous dhoti falls in thin pleats against the lower body, subtly outlining the firm legs and bent left knee. In contrast, the voluminous shawl is wrapped over the left shoulder, dipping artfully across the thighs and then rising up to wrap around the right arm, displaying the artist’s mastery of the medium as he describes the softness of the drapery against the well-defined flesh. The muscular torso has a naturalistic sense of definition and depth, further enhanced by the intricately detailed necklaces and amulets, and fully embodying the virility of youth. His handsome, youthful face has a moustache, indicating his accumulated wisdom, and he is crowned with an elaborate jeweled turban, signifying his royal stature. The artist has also taken great care to render magnificent details of ornamentation. The flat torque at the neck is composed of numerous small elements, and the beads on the multi-stranded necklaces are finely and lavishly rendered.

This figure compares favorably with a well-known example of a Bodhisattva formerly in the Heeramaneck Collection, and now on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (M.83.105.1, published in A. Heeramaneck, Masterpieces of Indian Sculpture from the Former Collection of Nasli M. Heeramaneck, Italy, 1979, cat.no.11, and P. Pal, Indian Sculpture Vol. 1, Los Angeles, 1986, p.167, cat.no.S45, illustrated below). Comparing the two shows the present figure to be taller and more naturalistically described; for example, note how the present figure’s broad shoulders slope gently in a realistic manner.

The left forearm of the present example is missing, however based on the insertion points in the arm and directly below, one can be reasonably sure this arm was lowered and holding something – either a waterpot, identifying him as Maitreya, or a garland, as with the Heeramanack example, which Dr. Pal has identified as Avalokiteshvara. With majestic poise, the present bodhisattva stands as a classic example of the highly-skilled carving for which Gandharan sculptors from this period are known.

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