Standing Buddha, 3rd - 5th century
Schist 31 7/8 in. x 10 1/2 in. x 5 in. (80.96 cm x 26.67 cm x 12.7 cm)
Crocker Art Museum Purchase from the William P. & Edith E. Cleary Fund2007.115
The region of Gandhara in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan lay on the 5,000-mile Silk Route that linked East Asia with the Middle East and beyond. Buddhist monasteries flourished and consisted of large establishments with multiple stupas (reliquary mounds), shrines, and living quarters. Patrons were generous in their donations of both money and imagery. While the earliest images of the Buddha in Gandhara are generally included in narrative reliefs of his life story, by the 3rd century, freestanding images were produced in greater numbers.
These images, many of which were life-size, were placed at the base of stupas or in shrines. Most depicted the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, though some represent the future Buddha Maitreya. By the 3rd century, the iconography of the Buddha image was set: he is dressed in monk’s robes, and although he has forsaken his princely life, his earlobes are still distended from the weight of the heavy jewels that he once wore. The ushnisha (cranial protuberance) and the urna (the small dot representing a whorl of hair between his eyebrows) are lakshanas (symbols) of a mahapurusha (great man).
The treatment of the drapery of this Buddha reflects the Greco-Roman influence that characterizes Gandharan sculpture. His facial features, however, do not have the classical proportions of many images, but instead verge on portraiture. Unlike most Buddha images, which are shown either standing or sitting in a frontal pose, this Buddha has one knee raised, as if he is walking. His posture may thus refer to a specific moment in the historical Buddha’s life, though without a context, it is not possible to say what moment that might be.