, Standing bodhisattva Enlarge 1 /1

On display on Level 1

Gandharan region, Pakistan

Standing bodhisattva 3rd-4th century Description: Gandharan grey schist standing figure of a Bodhisattva
Creation Notes: Kushan period (2nd century BCE-3rd century CE)
Materials & Technique: sculptures, grey schist stone grey schist
Dimensions: 153.0 h x 51.0 w x 17.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2006
Accession No: NGA 2006.295
Subject: Buddhist
Provenance:
  • 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 Armand Trampitsch, Paris, 1975 or before
  • sold at Christie's auction (lot 241), London, 10 October 1989
  • with F. Riyahi, London, 1989-2005
  • (offered and passed in at Sotheby's auction (sale 7108, lot 31), New York, March 26, 1998)
  • with the brother of F. Riyahi, Fariborz Riahi of Riyahi gallery, 2006
  • who sold it through art dealership Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch, London
  • to the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2006 for USD 1,050,000

Bodhisattvas are compassionate Buddhist beings who voluntarily vow to remain on earth until all sentient beings achieve enlightenment. Bodhisattvas play a key role in Mahayana Buddhism, which stresses universal salvation over personal liberation. Bodhisattvas are often depicted as royalty. Their bejewelled hair and sumptuous clothing and ornaments symbolise both material and spiritual wealth, and remind worshippers that these beings are still of this world despite their spiritual status.

Gandharan sculptures were among the first to portray the Buddha in human form. Although Gandhara was under Greek control for only a relatively short time in the fourth century BCE, the Mediterranean influence on the arts of Afghanistan and Pakistan created a distinctive early Buddhist sculptural style. This youthful male figure stands on a plinth on which a seated bodhisattva is also depicted, flanked by four attendants and two Corinthian columns. The figure has thick, shoulder-length curly hair worn with a fringe and a topknot, and a now largely missing halo behind his head. The urna (mole) on his forehead is one of the special marks of a great man. The legacy of the era of Alexander the Great is evident in the costume, physiognomy and naturalism of this figure.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

Bodhisattvas are compassionate Buddhist beings who voluntarily vow to remain on earth until all sentient beings achieve enlightenment. Bodhisattvas play a key role in Mahayana Buddhism, which stresses universal salvation over personal liberation. Often depicted as royalty, their bejewelled hair and sumptuous clothing and ornaments symbolise both material and spiritual wealth, and remind worshippers that they are still of this world despite their spiritual status.

Gandharan sculptures were among the first to portray the Buddha in human form. Although Gandhara was under Greek control for only a relatively short time in the fourth century BCE, the Mediterranean influence on the arts of Afghanistan and Pakistan created a distinctive early Buddhist sculptural style. This youthful male figure stands on a plinth which depicts a seated bodhisattva flanked by four attendants and two Corinthian columns. The figure has thick, shoulder-length curly hair worn with a fringe and a topknot, and a now largely missing halo behind his head. The urna (mole) on his forehead is one of the special marks of a great man. The legacy of the era of Alexander the Great is evident in the costume, physiognomy and naturalism of this figure.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

Description

This is a sculpture depicting a bodhisattva, a compassionate Buddhist being who remains on earth until all achieve enlightenment. The sculpture is from the Gandharan region, Pakistan (3rd-4th centuries). The sculpture is shown in an enlargeable image. Text onscreen gives information about the importance of bodhisattvas to Mahayana Buddhism, and explores the Mediterranean influence on the arts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, evidence of the era of Alexander the Great. The sculpture measures 153.0 cm high x 51.0 cm wide x 17.0 cm deep and was constructed out of grey schist stone.

Educational value

  • This is an excellent resource for the Responding strand in the visual arts curriculum for the 7-8 and 9-10 year bands, especially for those content descriptions that refer to considering the broader context of works of art, such as their social, cultural and historical context. The sculpture may also be relevant for the India and Greece depth studies in the year 7 history curriculum, particularly for those content descriptions about contacts and conflicts with other societies and the developments that resulted.
  • The resource is useful for the Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority, especially for promoting an understanding of the religious diversity within Pakistan and other parts of Asia. Buddhism and the associated traditions and belief systems could be further examined using this resource. The sculpture references the contribution to world history made by the peoples of Asia and their influence on and interaction with world aesthetics and creative pursuits.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Bodhisattvas are compassionate Buddhist beings who defer their own enlightenment to help earthly beings break the cycle of rebirth. They play a key role in Mahayana Buddhism which stresses universal salvation over personal liberation. Bodhisattvas are often depicted as royalty; their bejewelled hair and ornaments symbolise both material and spiritual wealth, reminding worshippers that these beings are still of the world.

Gandharan sculptures were among the first to portray the Buddha in human form. Although Gandhara was under Greek control for a relatively short time in the 4th century BCE, Mediterranean influence on the arts of Afghanistan and Pakistan created a distinctive early Buddhist sculptural style. The Hellenistic legacy of the era of Alexander the Great is evident in the costume, physiognomy and naturalism of the figure.


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