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A rare gray schist head of the Emaciated Siddhartha
A rare gray schist head of the Emaciated Siddhartha


A rare gray schist head of the Emaciated Siddhartha
Gandhara, 2nd/3rd century
Expressively carved with gaunt cheeks, deep-set sunken eyes, a long pointed nose and veined neck, framed by a full beard and with wavy locks of hair pulled up and over the ushnisha
11 in. (29.2 cm.) high
Japanese Collection, 1990s

Lot Essay

After renouncing his princely existence in search of truth, Siddhartha went through a stage of profound austerity. For six years Siddhartha tried passionately to work out his own way of salvation, visiting several religious masters of the time. Dissatisfied with their teachings, he practiced asceticism, submitting himself to such severe physical austerities that he came to look like a living skeleton. The deeply sunken eyeballs, projecting cheekbones, veins on the forehead and tight lips with a gentle smile attest to his superhuman effort to exceed human limitations in his quest for spiritual transcendence.
Gandharan artists, beyond capturing the idealized physical beauty of the enlightened Buddha, were equally capable of dramatizing a subject. This head expresses the noble spiritual state of the Bodhisattva seeking the meaning of life at the threshold between life and death. It is arguably the most graphic image of the physical deprivations and mental concentration endured by Siddhartha on his path towards Enlightenment.

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