This majestic figure of a standing bodhisattva is lavishly attired in the rich dress and jewelry of a Kushana prince or nobleman from the ancient region of Gandhara (parts of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan). The powerful, fleshy torso, the rounded musculature of the chest and abdomen, and the long, flowing hair further emphasize the figure’s regal bearing. The strong, round chin, straight nose, and smooth oval face adorned by an elegantly twirling mustache suggest the mixture of races and cosmopolitan nature of first-millennium Gandharan art and culture. Although strongly Hellenizing in profile, the figure is dressed as a thoroughly Indian ruler, wearing the dhoti, bare-chested, with a sash casually slung over the shoulder and draped in an elegant curve over the forearm. The juxtaposition of distinctly Western classical features, particularly the realistically rendered drapery and musculature, with the indigenous elements of dress and attributes, typifies Gandharan Buddhist sculpture.
Although both arms are missing, the position of the left arm seems to indicate that it held a water pot (kundika) containing amrita (the elixir of life) and a symbolic promise of salvation in the future, the spiritual role of the bodhisattva Maitreya. This impressive sculpture illustrates the emergence of the bodhisattva as a distinct iconographic image in the Buddhist religion and artistic tradition.
Adult: Standing Bodhisattva
Private collection, Switzerland;
(Eskenazi, Ltd., London);
purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1997.