Asian Art :
Gandharan Artefacts : Gandharan Stucco Head
Gandharan Stucco Head - AM.0227
Origin: Central Asia
6.5" (16.5cm) high
Collection: Asian Art
Location: Great Britain
| Photo Gallery
Mid-tan stucco head in the form of an older male
with traces of original slip remaining.
Gaunt, narrow face framed by beard and full head of
thick curls; furrowed brow, high cheekbones and
beak nose present a distinct and expressive
Gandhara was an ancient state, a mahajanapada, in
the Peshawar basin in the northwest portion of the
ancient Indian subcontinent, present-day Afghanistan
and Pakistan. The center of the region was at the
confluence of the Kabul and Swat rivers, bounded by
the Sulaiman Mountains on the west and the Indus
River on the east. The Safed Koh mountains
separated it from the Kohat region to the south. This
being the core area of Gandhara, the cultural
influence of "Greater Gandhara" extended across the
Indus river to the Taxila region and westwards into
the Kabul and Bamiyan valleys in Afghanistan, and
northwards up to the Karakoram range.
Gandhara was one of sixteen mahajanapadas (large
conglomerations of urban and rural areas) of ancient
India mentioned in Buddhist sources such as
Anguttara Nikaya. During the Achaemenid
period and Hellenistic period, its capital city was
Pushkalavati (Greek: ?e??e?a?t??), modern
Charsadda.[note 1] Later the capital city was moved
to Peshawar[note 2] by the Kushan emperor Kanishka
the Great in about AD 127.
Gandhara existed since the time of the Rigveda (c.
1500–1200 BC), as well as the Zoroastrian
Avesta, which mentions it as Vaek?r?ta, the sixth
most beautiful place on earth, created by Ahura
Mazda. Gandhara was conquered by the Achaemenid
Empire in the 6th century BC. Conquered by
Alexander the Great in 327 BC, it subsequently
became part of the Maurya Empire and then the
Indo-Greek Kingdom. The region was a major center
for Greco-Buddhism under the Indo-Greeks and
Gandharan Buddhism under later dynasties. It was
also a central location for the spread of Buddhism to
Central Asia and East Asia. It was also a center of
Bactrian Zoroastrianism and Hinduism. Famed for
its local tradition of Gandhara (Greco-Buddhist) Art,
Gandhara attained its height from the 1st century to
the 5th century under the Kushan Empire. Gandhara
"flourished at the crossroads of Asia," connecting
trade routes and absorbing cultural influences from
diverse civilizations; Buddhism thrived until 8th or
9th centuries, when Islam first began to gain sway in
the region. Pockets of Buddhism persisted in
Pakistan's Swat valley until the 11th century.
The Persian term Shahi is used by historian Al-
Biruni to refer to the ruling dynasty that took
over from the Kabul Shahi and ruled the region
during the period prior to Muslim conquests of the
10th and 11th centuries. After it was conquered by
Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD, the name Gandhara
disappeared. During the Muslim period, the area was
administered from Lahore or from Kabul. During
Mughal times, it was an independent district which
included the Kabul province.
physiognomy that recalls Graeco-Roman prototypes
rather than traditional Gandharan styles.
Gandhara is an ancient kingdom that today denotes
northern Pakistan and northeast Afghanistan.
Situated at a confluence of trading routes along the
Silk Road, Gandhara was a melting pot of different
cultures and we see a vast array of influences in art
- Hindu, Greco-Buddhist, Jewish and Parsi.
After the conquests of Alexander the Great during
4th Century BC, we see a spread of Greek influence
throughout the subcontinent. By 2nd Century AD,
Gandhara had become the holy land of Buddhism.
By 3rd Century AD, the empire came under Sassanid
rule. Each successive culture left their imprint in art.
Asceticism is advocated in many religious traditions
such as Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism however
fasting and mortification are strictly forbidden in
Zoroastrianism, the official religion of the Sassanid
Empire. Overriding the conflicting strictures of the
dominant religions, this piece presents an
interesting juxtaposition between a Buddhist tenet
and Greco-Roman aesthetic.
Condition: Excellent; repaired from two parts.