This fine head is a great example of the Gandharan style of sculpture that flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from the 1st to the 5th century AD. Located at the hub of the ancient Silk Routes, the region was influenced by Hellenistic culture resulting from the military campaign of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. Thus the Hellenistic style was integrated with traditional Buddhist and Hindu iconography.
Buddhism was the dominant religion during this time in the Gandhara area and many deities including Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were produced. A Bodhisattva embodies compassion. He is a being who is on his way to Enlightenment but voluntarly postones his own nirvana to help those who are still facing the cycles of birth and rebirth.
The present head is a fine representation of Bodhisattva and rare to come accross in public sales. The serene but powerful countenance is masterfully executed.
Compare with similar sculptures of Bodhisattvas exhibited in the Museum of Patna and the Museum of Peshâwar, illustrated in F. Tissot, Op. Cit., figs.171 and 172, fig.175 and fig.205. Another head, sold through Sotheby's New York, 23 March 2007, lot 7, demonstrates the same quality as the one under discussion. The first however is carved with undulating hair combed in a knot and secured with a jeweled fillet.