A schist figure of Maitreya Ancient region of Gandhara, 3rd/4th century
Lot 60
A schist figure of Maitreya Ancient region of Gandhara, circa 3rd century
Sold for US$ 80,500 inc. premium
Auction Details
A schist figure of Maitreya Ancient region of Gandhara, 3rd/4th century A schist figure of Maitreya Ancient region of Gandhara, 3rd/4th century A schist figure of Maitreya Ancient region of Gandhara, circa 3rd century
Lot Details
A schist figure of Maitreya
Ancient region of Gandhara, circa 3rd century
The life size future Buddha seated on a raised plinth with central offering, with his hands resting in dhyana mudra and holding the elixir of life contained within the kundika acutely modeled in the shape of a downturned lotus bud, the finely carved stylized folds of his sanghati elegantly pooling in concentric rings at his ankles and spilling over the edge of the base, bedecked with various necklaces including a large choker with inset design and talismanic armlets, the right revealing a lotus from underneath the tightly pulled robe, his mustached face with aquiline nose and steadfast gaze from heavily-lidded eyes, flanked by pendant earrings and centered by an incised urna, his wavy curls pulled over the domed ushnisha and cascading to his shoulders, secured by a beaded headdress comprising a network of beads interlinked between horizontal bands that rest above the forehead and wrap around the ushnisha.
42 in. (106.6 cm) high

Footnotes

  • With a broad muscular torso, strong hands, and ornate stylized folds, this near life-size sculpture exhibits the power and authority of Maitreya, believed to reside in Tushita heaven until the time comes when Shakyamuni is no longer remembered and the future Buddha will need to be reborn.

    It speaks to important developments in Buddhist sculpture and worship occurring in the ancient region of Gandhara around the 3rd century, coinciding with a transition from Nikaya to Mahayana Buddhist worship in the region. Firstly, iconic shrines such as this became the focus of veneration, replacing worship of relics and stupas with the large-scale production of images of Buddha and of bodhisattvas. Testament to this, Buddha's alms bowl, represented here at the base of the plinth, was an important relic housed in Gandhara and visited by Chinese pilgrims, but seems to vanish from Gandharan sculpture by the end of the 3rd century (Behrendt, The Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007, p. 56).

    Secondly, the present lot represents the rise in popularity of the worship of Maitreya at Gandhara and further afield. He is identified here by the remarkably detailed water vessel (kundika) dangling from his fingers by the spout. The most elaborate of these vessels, in connection with Gandharan reliquaries, mimic the bulbous shapes of lotuses or fruits. Compare to one such example held by a standing Maitreya and a reliquary located in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (ibid., no. 42, p. 54 & no. 21, p. 24). As Mahayana Buddhism spread from Gandhara to China, images of Maitreya became the focal point of a widespread cult, the idea of a messianic savior appealing to many living under the chaotic political climate and civil unrest of the Six Dynasties Period (220-589 CE) following the collapse of the Western Han Dynasty in the beginning of the 3rd century - the time around which this sculpture was made. The link between the art of Gandhara and early Buddha images in China is clearly demonstrated through a comparison of the facial features and robes between the present lot and a gilt bronze Buddha held in the Harvard Art Museums (1943.53.80.A) believed to be the earliest devotional Buddhist image made in China.

    Provenance:
    Private Californian Collection
    Collected in the late 1960s by an architect based in Rawalpindi working at the behest of Ayub Khan on the design of Islamabad
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