2nd to 3rd Century A.D
Magnificent head of Maitreya, Buddha
This spectacularly beautiful head of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, was carved from one of the finest types of schist in Gandhara in the region of modern Northwest-Pakistan. It is very likely, that the head once was part of a standing sculpture of Maitreya; unfortunately, it broke off from that very sculpture in Antiquity.
The face shows Maitreya as a young prince and combines the classical Greek-Roman artistic taste for a head of a young man with the sensuous refinement of Indian religious spirit. The nose is aquiline and straight, and follow the lines of the eyebrows. The eyes are open, the lips are relatively small and closed, but show a sensuous smile. The iconographic sign of enlightenment, called `urna´ in Sanskrit was set between the eyebrows.
The hairdo is styled extremely fine; the long-curled hair falls down to the neck. The upper part of
the hair is shown as a prominent knot on top of the head, called `ushnisha´ in the religious
nomenclature of Buddhism. All tufts of the curled hair are finely arranged under a combination of
a diadem and kind of hairnet, designed of double rows of pearls. It seems as if two cockades fasten
the diadem-like hairnet in front of the hairdo. The ears of Maitrya are elongated and once showed
two earrings; unfortunately, only the left ear´s earring has survived. The earring of the left ear is
designed in form of a rounded, basket-like bead with a mixture of pearled and vertical, straight-line patterns.
The Gandharan Maitrya head discussed here is one of the finest and most magnificent Gandharan
artworks of this very type, only comparable to similarly finest examples of this type, like to a schist
head of Maitreya from Palatu Dheri, now in the Peshawar Museum Pakistan (Ingholt and Islay
1957), one Maitreya-head in the Bombay Museum, followed by the head of a Maitreya-statue in
the Lahore Museum Pakistan (Tissot 1986). Of the same exceptional quality and refinement are a
head in the Russek-Collection in Switzerland (Russek 1987), one more head in the Musee Guimet
in Paris, France (Gies and Cohen 1995), as well as a similarly wonderful head in the Royal Ontario
Museum Toronto, Canada (Jongeward 2003) , and- last but not least!- the head of a magnificent
head of a standing Maitreya from Gandhara in the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California,
USA (Pal 2003).
This Gandharan schist-head of a Bodhisattva Maitreya must be dated to the 3rd century AD / CE,
and should be valued as one of the finest in quality known from international museum-collections
‘Gandharan Sculpture, property from the Hon. John Bingham, Hayes Farm, Beckley, Rye, Sussex, England’. London, 1952, Plate 62.
‘The Burlington Magazine’ December 1960. Sotheby’s Advert.
In the private collection of Hon. John Bingham, Sussex, England.
Sotheby’s, London, December 1960.
The auction buyer is listed as ‘Garebed’. According to specialist Florent Heintz at Sotheby’s, Garebed was a dealer sometimes buying as an agent for private collectors.
Thence with Denys Miller Sutton (1917- 1991).