Stucco sculpture of a Buddha standing in classical iconic posture, his head tilted forward,eyes half-closed, earlobes extended, holding the hem of his robe in his left hand, staring below with a serene, emotionless gaze with a gentle smile and casting his eyes downward to his devotees, in a gesture of apparent compassion.
His sharp wavy hair is drawn up over his usnisa into a chignon, which together with his long ear lobes are distinctive features (laksanas) of his buddhahood. The historical Buddha cut off his hair whilst renouncing the world and therefore would not have sported the ornately styled hair depicted here, but a traditional monk's tonsure. The influence on the treatment of the hairstyle, is therefore more Hellenistic than Indic, evident in the artfully arranged chignon, a recurrent feature in early Greek sculptures, also known as krobilos.
The Gandhara region had long been a crossroads of cultural influences. Geographically it included roughly northwestern India between the Khyber Pass and the Indus River and the region of the Kabul Valley in Afghanistan. During the reign of the Indian emperor Ashoka around 3rd century B.C., the region became the scene of intensive Buddhist missionary activity; and, in the 1st century AD, rulers of the Kushan empire such as Kanishka (AD 129-160) maintained contacts with Rome and employed foreign artists from the eastern centres of the Roman Empire to realise many sculptural works. The many archaeological discoveries of Alexandrian and Syrian workmanship at Taxila in the Punjab and Begram in the Kabul valley testify to the cultural and diplomatic connections with the Graeco-Roman West. Many artifacts, in particular sculptures, have survived and are now dispersed in major museums throughout the world.
The treatment of the robe of our stucco Buddha,imitating a classical himation, is intensely naturalistic, as the folds are shallowed to accommodate his expanded chest, demonstrating the mastership of the Gandharan sculptors. In between the pleats of his garment are traces of the original red pigment that would have once covered the whole surface, reminiscent of the elaborate chromatic palette these stucco statues would have originally been painted with.
Both the sharp treatment of the folds, the Buddha's exceptional strength of expression and his hair fashioned into copious half-moon shaped waves would indicate an early date around the 2nd century AD.