Lot 30. A Gray Schist Figure of Buddha, Gandhara, 2nd-3rd Century; 34 ½ in. (87.6 cm.) high. Estimate USD 250,000 - USD 350,000. Price realised USD 125,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2015.
Finely carved standing on a rectangular base centered with devotees in adoration flanking an altar, wearing long flowing robes, his left hand lowered, his face in a benign expression with elongated eyes, and arched brows, his hair arranged in undulating curls rising over the ushnisha, his face backed by a smooth nimbus.
Provenance: Robert H. Ellsworth, Ltd., New York, by 1970.
Christian Humann (d. 1981), New York, by 1972, named the Pan-Asian Collection by 1977.
Collection of Robert H. Ellsworth, New York, acquired by 1982.
Exhibited: On loan to Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1972-73 and 1976-82 (L.72.14.138).
On loan to University Art Museum, University of California Berkeley, 10 December 1973 – 7 May 1976.
Note: This standing Buddha figure exemplifies the mastery of the artist at a time when Buddhist stone sculpture in the region was at its most refined. The corporal solidity of this figure gives him the prominence of a singular, independent figure. He stands on a rectangular plinth with a peaceful expression, his wavy locks pulled back from his oval face that still retains flecks of gilding. The monastic garments are draped across both shoulders, hanging naturalistically in folds that reveal the contours of the body. His toes extend slightly over the edge of the plinth, as if approaching the viewer. The faithful rendering of the deeply carved folds of the garment, the face, and the ripples of the hair are particularly exquisite and testify to the skill of the sculptor.
The growing popularity of Mahayana Buddhism in religious practice and artistic patronage in the Gandharan region around the 2nd century AD inspired the creation of large, detached sculpted images set alongside narrative friezes. The carved relief in the base of the present example shows three worshippers flanking each side of an alms bowl of the Buddha, which is placed on a canopied stool, and the scene is further complemented by an exceptional pair of lotuses on both sides of the base. This scene supports the dating of this image, as its depiction is not found after the third century (see K. Behrendt, The Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, p. 56). This scene also alludes to Buddha’s awakened nature as the alms bowl was a gift to the Buddha Shakyamuni upon his enlightenment, and combined with the powerfully modeled anatomy, this figure is instilled with both a sense of narrative and a divine transcendental presence.
Mr. Ellsworth originally purchased this Buddha around 1960 but then sold it to Christian Humann, which he long regretted until it eventually returned to him as part of the Pan-Asian Collection (see A. Christy, “Not for Sale: A Few of Robert Ellsworth's Favourite Possessions,” Orientations, June 1991, p. 58, fig. 4). According to Ms. Christy, he was particularly charmed by the figure’s pronounced nose, a feature that relates to Indian prototypes, while the treatment of the drapery is reminiscent of the Greaco-Roman tradition. This stately figure continued to engage viewers daily its placement in Mr. Ellsworth’s dining room.