A carved schist head of Buddha, Ancient region of Gandhara, 3rd-4th century. Estimate US$ 50,000 - 80,000 (€45,000 - 72,000)Photo: Bonhams.

New York - A carved schist head of Buddha from the ancient region of Gandhara, dating to the 3rd or 4th century A.D., is one of the highlights of the Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian auction at Bonhams New York on on March 16. The sculpture is an exceptional example of its kind and is estimated at $50,000-80,000.

The smooth, polished surface bears an arresting expression of Buddha's serene enlightenment. The Greco-Roman legacy of Gandharan sculpture and its evolution towards abstraction co-exist seamlessly in the naturalistic curves and the crisp ridges among his features. Gathered into a bun and secured by a fine beaded chain, his rippling hair emanates like rays of resplendent light.

The Gandharan head is accompanied by a letter, dated 2 January 1971, from American diplomat Carl Winberg to the owner's parents. In the document, Winberg, who served in India, Indonesia, Burma and Pakistan, writes of giving the work as a gift.

Mark Rasmussen, Specialist in Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art at Bonhams, said: 'The market for Gandharan sculpture is stronger than ever and continues to rise, with an unprecedented demand from new and old collectors and institutions throughout the Americas, Europe, South Asia and East Asia. The superior modelling and condition of this head makes it one of the finest examples to appear at auction in recent years, and certainly the finest example of Gandharan sculpture offered at auction this Asia Week.'

The auction will begin at 4 pm.

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A carved schist head of Buddha, Ancient region of Gandhara, 3rd-4th century. Estimate US$ 50,000 - 80,000 (€45,000 - 72,000)Photo: Bonhams.

With smooth stylized features and thick rippling locks over the ushnisha secured by a chain and disc pendant. 11 3/4 in. (29.7 cm) high

NotesCapturing a sense of serene interiority, the present lot is a superior example of its kind. Gandharan sculpture's Greco-Roman legacy and its evolution towards abstraction are seamlessly juxtaposed with the naturalistic curves of his nasal sidewall, nostrils, dimples, and chin, and the crisp ridges defining his lips, philtrum, eyelids, and eyebrows.

His locks emanate like rays of a resplendent light, secured by a fine beaded chain with a semi-circular central medallion that appears across a number of seated images of Preaching Buddha held in The British Museum (see Zwalf, A Catalogue of the Gandhara Sculpture in the British Museum, vol. II, London, 1996, pp. 19, 22 & 23, nos 20, 24 & 26).

A letter dated January 2nd, 1971 from Carl Winberg to the current owner's parents notes the bestowal of the head and explains the history of Taxila. Winberg was an America diplomat, Foreign Service officer, and agricultural attaché. He served in India, Indonesia, Burma, Pakistan, The Congo, Australia and Bangladesh, before retiring in 1977. 

ProvenanceCarl O. Winberg, before 1971
Gift to the current owner's parents by the above
Private Collection