Seated Maitreya

Grey schist
Ancient Gandhāra region
2nd-3rd century
H. 77,5 cm or 30 in



This sublime sculpture probably represents Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. In his left hand he holds the kunmbha, a symbol of water and life, an appropriate iconography for the progenitor of future peace and order. He is depicted richly dressed, adorned with ornaments, like the historical Buddha before the latter renounced his princely life. He wears a dhotiwith a heavier sanghatidraped over his shoulders, revealing his muscular torso. The drapery is remarkably sculpted and shows Hellenistic influence in Gandhāra. The boddhisattva sits on a masterfully carved throne, with a drapery stretched between his feet, and a bowl probably emitting incense.

This is a naturalistic representation, as can be seen in the modelling of the body. The face is well preserved, as is the halo, and gives a serene expression. The features are carefully sculpted, as are the numerous details and ornaments that will be found on this sculpture: the hairstyle is sophisticated, as are the necklaces and amulets that fall on the torso. The jewellery is characteristic of Gandhārian art: the first necklace is wide and flat, the second longer necklace is on the rich pectoral, and the Brahmanic cord (upavīta) carries a series of small reliquaries, armbands and bracelets. The care taken with the flask, which is particularly well chiselled, is also noteworthy.

It is an exceptional example of the syncretic art characteristic of the Gandhara region: Buddhist iconography is brilliantly mixed with Greek naturalism. It is both monumental and elegant.

Publication : This artwork has been published in Isao Kurita, Gandharan Art II,1990, p. 39.

Provenance : Private japanese collection, 1990.