Lot 247. A monumental grey schist figure of seated Buddha Ancient region of Gandhara, Kushan period, first half of 3rd Century. Estimate 200,000-300,000 USD. Photo: Sotheby's.
Height 50 7/8 in. (129.2 cm)
Provenance: William H. Wolff, 2 December 1961.
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund, 1961.
Exhibited: “Kushan Sculpture: Images from Early India”, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 13 November 1985–5 January 1986; Asia Society Galleries, New York, 13 February–6 April 1986; Seattle Art Museum, 8 May–13 July 1986.
On view at The Cleveland Museum of Art, before 23 November 1997–13 June 2005.
Literature: 'Oriental Art Recently Acquired by American Museums', in Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America, vol. XVI, Honolulu, 1962, illus. p. 106, fig. 10.
The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, vol. 49, June 1962, illus. p. 128.
The Human Adventure II, Classical Civilization, Volume II, Grade 5, The Educational Research Council of Greater Cleveland, 1965–6, illus. p. 48
Handbook of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1966, illus. p. 228
S. Czuma and R. Morris, Kushan Sculpture: Images from Early India, Cleveland, 1985, illus. p. 197, fig. 108.
Note: Examples of monumental Buddhist sculpture, such as the current work, with a tapered tang socketed into a separately carved base, rarely appear at auction. Of particular note is the ovoid cushion upon which Buddha sits, incised with circular motifs which represent lotus seed pods. The tapered tang with seed pod motif would likely have fitted into a separately carved lotus throne base; for a complete example of the type, see a similar example sold at Christie's New York, 23 September 2004, lot 32.
The powerful and beautifully proportioned figure of Buddha is draped in a undulating sanghati which wraps over the right shoulder, leaving the left shoulder bare. Although the forearms are now missing, it is likely that the hands would have been raised in dharmachakra mudra or the teaching gesture, based upon the position of the extant arms and the small area of exposed schist at the chest center, where the raised hands would have been joined to the torso.
Compare this style with another large Teaching Buddha from Loriyan Tangai in the northwest Frontier Province of modern Pakistan, see F. Tissot, Gandhâra, Paris, 1985, fig 128, currently in the collection of the Indian Museum in Kolkata. Also compare with a seated Buddha at the Kabul Museum, see B. Rowland, Art in Afghanistan, 1971, cat. no. 107; and a shrine of the Teaching Buddha at the Indian Museum in Kolkata, in A. Foucher, L'Art Greco-Bouddhique du Gandhara, 1905, vol. 1, fig. 76, p. 192.
The current monumental work is a widely-published and exhibited example of the sculpture created between the second and third centuries to meet the demand for large Buddhist icons to be placed in niches on temples and in monasteries to secure religious merit for donors, in accordance with the growing popularity of Mahayana Buddhist beliefs. Buddhism flourished in the Gandharan region from the 1st century BCE, reaching its apogee under the mighty Kushan emperors. The Kushan period, during which the present work was created, is considered a golden age of Gandharan Buddhist art, during which the construction of stupas or reliquary mounds, temples, monasteries and sculpture dominated the cultural sphere.
Spanning the distance across the Khyber from modern day Afghanistan in the east and Pakistan in the north, the Gandharan cultural region served as the central passageway between Persia, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The ancient kingdom of Gandhara was a center of significant military and commercial importance, which absorbed and reflected the dynamic multicultural, artistic and religious influence of its numerous conquerors and inhabitants. Situated between the Indus and Kabul Rivers in the fertile Peshawar valley, this region was also for many centuries a main corridor of invasion from within and without. By the first and second centuries BCE, after the capture of the Gandharan region by the Greek and Persian armies of Alexander and the decline of the Mauryan Empire of Chandragupta and his heirs, an era of Graeco-Bactrian rule began, thus giving rise to this unique synthesis of Hellenistic and Indic artistic traditions.
Sotheby's. Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art Including Property from The Cleveland Museum of Art, New York, 15 Mar 2017, 10:00 AM