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Bodhisattva Maitreya, 2nd-3rd century

Pakistan: Ancient Gandhara, 100-299
Schist
69 x 28 x 10 in. (175.3 x 71.1 x 25.4 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1975.04.1.S
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Made in Gandhara, in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan, this sculpture reflects the international style that was present in this ancient kingdom. Gandhara was located along the Silk Road, the primary mercantile route that connected the East to the West. Buddhist images from this region were influenced by Greco-Roman examples.

The ushnisha or cranial protuberance of this Maitreya is interpreted as a luscious chignon, similar to those used for images of Greek gods and goddesses. The figure wears two necklaces one of which has a charm depicting Poseidon, a god with Greek origins. This suggests that there was a certain degree of religious tolerance in Gandhara at the time of this sculpture’s making. Moreover, the inclusion of this charm along with the figure’s shoes and the relaxed manner in which he wears his robe, suggests that images of male deities were modeled after kings.

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Audio Listen to an excerpt from the audio tour

 


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