4 LARGE TERRACOTTA HEAD OF A BODHISATTVA
4TH – 5TH CENTURY AD
H. 35 CMS, 13 ¾ INS
An outstanding reddish terracotta head of a Bodhisattva, with a tranquil dreamlike expression and wavy swept-back hair, wearing heavy pendant earrings and a complex diadem with Bacchanalian motifs, extensive traces of pigments remaining.
A Bodhisattva is a person who has attained enlightenment and is a potential Buddha but who rejects nirvana in order to assist with the suffering of mankind.
This exquisitely beautiful sculpture, modelled in an extravagant and confident manner, was probably once part of a tableau scene depicting one of the jatakas, (an event from the Buddha’s life). It is reminiscent of the figures in the large stucco reliefs from the monastery at Tapa Shotor, Hadda, Afghanistan, now destroyed and visible only in photographs.
For a similar Bodhisattva head in stucco from Hadda, see cat. no. 62 in Afghanistan: Une histoire millénaire, Exposition organisée par la Réunion des Musées nationaux, le Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet et la Fundacion la Caixa, Barcelone, Paris, 2002. For a further stucco example from the Heeramaneck Collection in the L.A. County Museum, see cat. no. 126 in Stanislaw Czuma, Kushan Sculpture: Images from early India, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1985. The floral crown is reminiscent of the celebrated, small female head in the Peshawar Museum – see no. 512 in H. Ingholt and F. Lyons, Gandharan Art in Pakistan, New York: Pantheon Books, 1957.
Provenance: Private English collection. Acquired by the owner’s late father during employment with the British Foreign Service in the 1960s.