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Gandharan region, Afghanistan or Pakistan

Atlas 3rd century Creation Notes: Kushan period (2nd century BCE-3rd century CE)
Materials & Technique: sculptures, schist
Dimensions: 21.1 h x 18.8 w x 19.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1979
Accession No: NGA 79.79
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • with art dealership Moreau-Gobard, Paris, 1978 or before
  • which sold it to the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1978 for GBP 2,200

This bearded winged figure has tentatively been identified as Atlas, the giant god of Greek mythology who holds the world on his shoulders. In contrast to Greek depictions, Gandharan sculptures generally show Atlas with wings. Although Gandharan Atlas figures wear short boots or have bare feet, the long, talon-like toes of this image reinforce its composite bird-man characterisation.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label