Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide Art of Buddhism
This colossal head (almost 21 inches, or 53 centimeters tall) with a serene face and downcast eyes belonged to an image of a bodhisattva (enlightened being), who would have been part of the sculpted tableau in a Buddhist monastery. Quite possibly, it flanked an even larger image of the Buddha and was accompanied by figures of monks and devotees.

In the western parts of the ancient region known as Gandhara, sculptures were frequently created from stucco rather than stone, partly because stucco was less expensive but also because the pliable material allowed for greater expressiveness. The body of a large stucco sculpture was fashioned around an armature of plaited straw and rope, while the head, which was modeled separately, was attached to the body with a wooden dowel. The image would have been painted, and traces of the original color still survive around the face and on the turban of the bodhisattva.

Bodhisattva, Afghanistan (ancient Gandhara), ca. 4th century, stucco with traces of paint, gift of Arthur M. Sackler, 53.0 cm H x 36.8 W x 33.6 cm, S1987.951
Bodhisattva
Afghanistan (ancient Gandhara), ca. 4th century,
stucco with traces of paint,
gift of Arthur M. Sackler,
53.0 cm H x 36.8 W x 33.6 cm, S1987.951
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
Exhibition List | Online Exhibitions

All presented material is copyright © Smithsonian Institution, 2008 except where otherwise noted.
Comments to Sackler/Freer Webmaster