A RARE AND MAGNIFICENT GRAY SCHIST RELIEF TRIAD OF BUDDHA SHAKYAMUNI WITH BODHISATTVAS
A RARE AND MAGNIFICENT GRAY SCHIST RELIEF TRIAD OF BUDDHA SHAKYAMUNI WITH BODHISATTVAS
A RARE AND MAGNIFICENT GRAY SCHIST RELIEF TRIAD OF BUDDHA SHAKYAMUNI WITH BODHISATTVAS
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A RARE AND MAGNIFICENT GRAY SCHIST RELIEF TRIAD OF BUDDHA SHAKYAMUNI WITH BODHISATTVAS

ANCIENT REGION OF GANDHARA, DATED BY INSCRIPTION TO YEAR 5, PROBABLY 3RD-4TH CENTURY CE

Details
A RARE AND MAGNIFICENT GRAY SCHIST RELIEF TRIAD OF BUDDHA SHAKYAMUNI WITH BODHISATTVAS
ANCIENT REGION OF GANDHARA, DATED BY INSCRIPTION TO YEAR 5, PROBABLY 3RD-4TH CENTURY CE
24 ¼ in. (61.6 cm.) high; 23 ¼ in. (59.1 cm.) wide
Provenance
Collection of Claude de Marteau, Brussels, by 1973.
Important private collection, Japan, by 1990.
Literature
Advertisement, Oriental Art, vol. XIX, no. 1, Surrey, Spring 1973, p. 24.
J. Harle, “A Hitherto Unknown Dated Sculpture from Gandhara: A Preliminary Report,” South Asian Archaeology, Leiden, 1974, pp. 128-135.
G. Fussman, “Documents épigraphiques kouchans”, Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême Orient, vol. 61, Paris, 1974, pp. 54-8.
A. Quagliotti, “Ossevazioni sul Buddha di Bruxelles,” Rivista degli studi orientali, vol. 51, fasc. 1/4, Rome, June 1978, pp. 137-140, tav. 1.
P. Pal, ed., Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art, Los Angeles, 1984, p. 191, cat. no. 74.
S. Czuma, Kushan Sculpture: Images from Early India, Cleveland, 1985, p. 199, cat. no. 109.
K. Khandalavala, “The Five Dated Gandhara School Sculptures and Their Stylistic Implications,” Indian Epigraphy: Its Bearing on the History of Art, New Delhi, 1985, plate 112.
J. van Lohuizen-de Leeuw, “The second century of the Kani?ka era,” South Asian Studies, vol. 2, London, 1986, p. 6, fig. 7.
G. Fussman, “Numismatic and Epigraphic Evidence for the Chronology of Early Gandharan Art,” Investigating Indian Art: Proceedings of a Symposium on the Development of Early Buddhist and Hindu Iconography Held at the Museum of Indian Art Berlin in May 1986, Berlin, 1987, p. 72, fig. 3.
G. Mitterwallner, “The Brussels Buddha from Gandhara of the Year 5,” Investigating Indian Art: Proceedings of a Symposium on the Development of Early Buddhist and Hindu Iconography Held at the Museum of Indian Art Berlin in May 1986, Berlin, 1987, p. 215, fig 1.
I. Kurita, Gandharan Art, vol. I, Tokyo, 1988, p. 143, P3-VIII (illus. cover), second edition 2003 (illus. back cover).
K. Tanabe, “Iconographical and Typological Investigations of the Gandharan Fake Bodhisattva Image Exhibited by the Cleveland Museum of Art and Nara National Museum,” Orient, XXIV, Tokyo, 1988, p. 88, fig. 2.
G. Verardi, “Le sculture del Gandhara nel Civico Museo Archeologico di Milano,” Rassegna di studi del Civico Museo Archeologico e del Civico Gabinetto Numismatico di Milano, Milan, 1991, supplement VII, p. 46, fig. 16 (line drawing).
M. Akira, ed., Iconography of Nirvana and Maitreya - from India to Central Asia, Tokyo, 1992, no. 138.
M. Akira, ed., Gandharan - Wonders of Buddha, Tokyo, 1995, no. IV-12.
M. Bussagli, (trans. B. Arnal), L’Art du Gandhara, Paris, 1996, pp. 188 (part), 189.
S. Wriggins, Xuanzang: A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road, Boulder, 1996, p. 66, fig. 4.6.
I. Kim, The Future Buddha Maitreya: An Iconological Study, New Delhi, 1997, fig. 83.
F. Tissot, “Remarks and Several Gandhara Pieces,” East and West, vol. 55, no. 4, Rome, 2005, p. 396, fig. 1.
P. Pal, “Reflections on the Gandhara Bodhisattva Images,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute, vol. 20, Detroit, 2006, p. 103, fig. 2.
M. Akira, Gandharan Art and Bamiyan Site, Tokyo, 2006, p. 61, no. 26.
C. Schmidt, Symbols of Royalty and Divinity: Stylistic and Iconographic Characteristics of Turbans Worn by Images of Bodhisattvas from Ancient Greater Gandhara, Lahore, 2007, figs. 29a, 29b (part).
I. Kurita, Introduction to Gandharan Art, Tokyo, 2008, fig. 50.
J. Rhi, “Identifying Several Visual Types in Gandharan Buddha Images,” Archives of Asian Art, vol. 58, New York, 2008, p. 56, fig. 24.
M. Akira, “Iconography of the Two Flanking Bodhisattvas in the Buddhist Triads from Gandhara,” East and West, vol. 58, no. 1, Rome, 2008, p. 146, fig. 21.
C. Luczanits, “Gandhara und seine Kunst,” Gandhara: Das buddhistische Erbe Pakistans / Legenden, Klöster und Paradiese, Bonn, 2008, p. 24, abb. 7.
M. Rhie, Early Buddhist Art of China and Central Asia, v. 3, Leiden/Boston, 2010, fig. 6.18.
C. Luczanits, “Gandhara and its Art,” The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara, New York, 2011, p. 20, fig. 9.
M. Akira, (trans. M. McClintock), “The Current State of Research on Gandharan Art,” Kokka, no. 1385, Tokyo, 2011, pl. 3.
G. Fussman, A. Quagliotti, The Early Iconography of Avalokitesvara, Paris, 2012, pl. IX, 15.
J. Hartmann, “Die Modernisier der indischen Gesellschaft,” Schrift und Sprache: Was Forscher über unsere ältesten Kulturgüter wissen. Spektrum der Wissenschaft Spezial: Archäologie · Geschichte · Kultur, no. 3, Berlin, 2014, p. 35.
J. Rhi, “Positioning Gandharan Buddhas in chronology: significant coordinates and anomalies,” Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art, Oxford, 2018, p. 43, figs. 12-13.
Exhibited
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, “Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art,” 4 March 1984-10 February 1985, cat. no. 74.
Cleveland Museum of Art, Asia Society, New York, Seattle Art Museum, “Kushan Sculpture: Images from Early India,” 13 November 1985-13 July 1986, cat. no. 109.
Shizuoka Kenritsu Bijutsukan, Fukuoka Ajia Bijutsukan, Fukui-shi Bijutsukan, “Gandhara Art & Bamiyan Site,” 28 December 2007-6 July 2008, cat. no. 26.

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Tristan Bruck
Tristan Bruck Specialist, Head of Sale

Lot Essay

Carved in deep relief, with exquisite modeling and lifelike attention to detail, the present lot can be considered one of the most important and recognizable Gandharan sculptures to ever appear at auction. Extensively published and widely exhibited, this rare and important Buddhist triad has previously been described by Dr Pratapaditya Pal in Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art, Los Angeles, 1984, p. 191 as “one of the finest extant Gandhara reliefs” ever known to international art historians and the art market. The figures of Buddha and his flanking bodhisattvas, Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, as well as the boughs of the tree above, are carved with such depth as to appear almost in the round, and the emerging torsos of Brahma and Indra behind contribute to the sense of deep perspective, a masterful feat on the part of the sculpture considering the shallow actual depth of the relief.
One of the numerous aspects which distinguishes this magnificent triad, depicting Buddha Shakyamuni with a divine retinue of bodhisattvas, is its inclusion in a small group of inscribed figural sculpture from the ancient region of Gandhara. As recently as 2017, this group of five inscribed figural works included the present lot; a seated Buddha from Manane Dheri; a standing Buddha from Loriyan Tangai; a standing Buddha from Hashtnagar; and a standing Hariti from Skarah Dheri, the latter four all commonly known by their excavation site and subject matter, i.e. the Loriyan Tangai Buddha, etc. For further discussion, see J. Rhi, “Positioning Gandharan Buddhas in chronology: significant coordinates and anomalies”, Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art, Oxford, 2018, pp. 35-49 and also C. Luczanits, “Gandhara and its Art”, The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara, New York, 2011, pp. 20-22. The present triad, however, has been known colloquially and frequently published as the ‘Brussels Buddha’ due to its previous inclusion in the collection of the late Belgian dealer and connoisseur, Claude de Marteau.
Since the initial appearance of the present lot in an advertisement in Oriental Art magazine in the spring of 1973, enthusiastic scholastic and epigraphical debate surrounding the chronology and interpretation of Gandharan inscriptions, and the methodology of translation of dated inscriptions into the Gregorian calendar, has followed.
The primary question for epigraphical debate pertains to the correlation of era (i.e. Kanishka; Kharoshti; Azes; Vikrama, etc.) applied to the numerical inscription, which would give a modern dating anywhere between the first and fifth centuries CE. Although a median date of third-fourth century CE is presently accepted as a working hypothesis by art historians and epigraphical specialists, the question of accuracy still remains a subject of debate. Determining the correlation of the inscribed date to the Gregorian calendar has a significant and far-reaching effect, of course, on the dating of the present lot; the beginning and end of the Kushan era; and the greater understanding of the development and evolution of Gandharan art history.
Writing about the present lot in “Gandhara and its Art”, The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara, New York, 2011, p. 21, Christian Luczanits suggests a dating of third-fourth century (232 or 332 CE), based upon the premise “… of the Kushan era as beginning with Kanishka I at 127 CE” as well as the “… assumption of the development of iconographic themes based on the slowly increasing importance of concepts and ideas associated with Mahayana Buddhism.” The specifically Mahayanist iconographic themes to which he refers includes the worship of bodhisattvas, including Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya, both of whom flank the Buddha in the present lot. Luczanits further summarizes: “ .. the interpretations of art history and Buddhist studies on the one hand and those of archaeology, history and epigraphy on the other hand have been drifting apart, without the possibility of reconciliation.”
The inscription on the present lot has been presented by Juhyung Rhi in “Positioning Gandharan Buddhas in chronology: significant coordinates and anomalies”, in Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art, Oxford, 2018, p. 43. and translated as:

sa[m] 41 Phagunasa masasa di pamcami Budhanadasa trepidakasa damamukhe madapidarana adhvadidana puyaya bhavatu
(In the year 5, on the fifth day of the month of Phalguna: the pious gift of Buddhananda, learned in the three baskets (pitakas), may it be for honoring the deceased [?] father and mother)

Based on an interpretation of the year 5 in the inscription as correlating to the Kanishka era, it is dated by Pratapaditya Pal in the “Light
of Asia” exhibition catalogue to the year 83 CE. Since the time of publication, however, the first century attribution has been widely debated as too early a date for a stele of this sophistication and subject matter vis-à-vis the current understanding of the trajectory of Gandharan sculpture.
Further distinguishing characteristics of this extraordinary sculpture include the unusual and divine assembly of deities and bodhisattvas surrounding Buddha Shakyamuni, seated at the center of the relief. In the present lot, Buddha is flanked on the proper left by the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, as evidenced by the diminutive Buddha figure at the crown of his head; and flanked on the proper right by another bodhisattva, likely Maitreya, although losses to the forearms preclude positive identification by attribute. Behind Buddha float two smaller figures with hands raised in adoration: crowned Indra on the proper left and an ascetic figure depicting Brahma on the proper right. Surmounting Buddha and retinue is a heavy bough of luxuriant leaves, alternately described as the famous bodhi tree, or a celestial tree laden with flowers.
Compare this triad with a very similar relief in the Peshawar Museum depicting the same scene (published as the “Miracle of Shravashti” in H. Hargreaves, Handbook to the Sculptures of the Peshawar Museum, Calcutta, 1930, pl. 2, fig. a.). In the Peshawar example, the bodhisattva Maitreya flanks Buddha on the proper left. Beyond this difference, there is remarkable resemblance between the two triads, including the treatments of the leaves and flowers; the elegant hairstyles and cascading style of the robes; the particular crown style of Indra; and the unusual treatment of the lotus throne petals, which resemble an artichoke and are more frequently seen in bronze sculpture from the Swat Valley.

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