Ancient region of Gandhāra (Northern Pakistan)
2nd – 3rd century
H. 11 cm ; L. 33 cm
This capital is a wonderful manifesto of the close link between Buddhist art and western ancient art. It combines with great finesse and naturalness the Greek acanthus leaf motif to an image of the Buddha surrounded by worshippers with joined hands.
The Blessed one is recognizable without hesitation to the uṣṇīṣa, the cranial protuberance which is the essential sign of his enlightenment, as well as to his broad monastic mantle, elegantly draped around the body in the manner of a Roman toga and falling back in soft folds. Buddha is represented sitting on a quadrangular base, which rests on a lotus-shaped base which delimits the scene of religious devotion.
The whole left side is adorned with an extremely refined vegetable decoration which has the particularity to take birth under the relief and to continue in the back. The acanthus leaf widens, blooms progressively, undulates and finally ends in a graceful volute. It is a real Corinthian capital that can be appreciated here. This beautiful architectonic piece of Hellenistic influence had to overcome a pilaster used to frame a niche in which was a Buddha or a bodhisattva. Such architectural elements are found in miniature on numerous Gandharan reliefs, separating the different scenes and chanting the carved space.
Provenance: Private collection, UK, since the 1990s