Freer Gallery of Art Arthur M Sackler Gallery Gallery Guide Cave as Canvas: Hidden Images of Worship along the ancient Silk Routes

Head of a Devata
China, Kucha, Qizil, 4th–6th century c.e., Gypsum plaster with pigment, Long-term loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of John Gellatly, LTS 1985.1.325.3
A dark-skinned, red-haired devata, or celestial being, is framed by two large divine auras, called mandorlas, from two figures of the Buddha (not shown in this fragment). The devata's facial features are drawn in white on a black ground, a technique frequently employed at Qizil for rendering dark-skinned figures. His topknot identifies him as an ascetic (one who renounces the world in search of enlightenment). The figure's proximity to the two mandorlas suggests this fragment may not be part of a sermon scene.