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The hybrid character of Gandharan art found powerful expression in Buddhism, which was the dominant religion in this area. Buddhism flourished in this region from the first Century BCE reaching its apogee under the mighty Kushan emperors. The Kushan Period (1st Century BCE - 3rd Century CE) is considered the golden age of Gandharan Buddhist Art during which the construction of stupas, temples and monasteries, all housing images of the Buddha, dominated the Gandharan cultural spehere.
The underlining feature of Gandharan art was its cosmopolitan nature which combined Greek and Roman artistic modes with strains of Scythian, Iranian and other traditions bound together with a strongly Indic orientation. The agglomeration of these diverse artistic influences is aptly displayed in this sculpture of the standing Buddha, which suggests the model of the Greek logos or orator. The frontal and linear orientation of the image is characteristic of Palmyrene art, while the treatment of the symmetrical oval face and deeply carved eyes hark back to the classical Greek tradition. The conventionalized treatment of the drapery in parallel folds is akin to the Imperial Roman tradition, and yet the innate spirituality of the image is purely Indic. The Buddha’s missing right hand would have possibly been raised in abhaya mudra, the fear abiding gesture, which not only signifies security but also implies instruction and assent. The well-proportioned face with narrow heavy-lidded eyes and softly curving lips, the powerfully modeled body with the musculature of the upper torso subtly defined beneath the garment and the vigorous treatment of the drapery with its prominent heavy folds emphasized by undercut ridges, coalesce to make this a superlative example of Gandharan craftsmanship.
The current image is one of the few examples of highly important life-sized figures from the region to have survived to the present day. The tallest known freestanding Gandharan sculpture of the Buddha is the three meters tall figure from Sahri Bahlol, see H. Ingholt, Gandharan Art in Pakistan, New York, 1957, no. 210. While Gandharan sculptures reveal a variety of stylistic types, the present example may be assigned to the 'mature' phase defined by Zwalf, or Group III as defined by Ingholt. For further discussion on phases and styles see W. Zwalf, Gandharan Sculptures in the British Museum, vol. I & II, 1996, pp. 69-72.
The looped end of the garment held in the Buddha’s hand is a naturalistic detail that adds realism to this wonderfully serene image. For a similar treatment of the drapery with the garment looped in the hand the figure may be compared to a smaller standing Buddha in the Tokyo National Museum, see Isao Kurita, Gandharan Art: The World of the Buddha, vol. I & II, 2003, p. 78, pl. 201. The rendering of the facial features, the hairstyle and the treatment of the drapery is most closely related to that of a large bust of the Buddha from Sahri Bahlol now in the Peshawar Museum, see H. Ingholt, Gandharan Art in Pakistan, New York, 1957, no. 223, but the current example is more complete and includes the beautifully rendered detail of the left hand.
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