HEAD OF A BODHISATTVA
Front of the head in fine-grain grey schist originating from the valleys of present-day Pakistan or Afghanistan. Fine and detailed sculpture executed in ronde bosse, putting in relief the characteristics of Greco-Buddhist representation. The eyes are almond-shaped and slightly protruding, aquiline nose, fleshy mouth in a slightly plump face. Coiffure typical of Indian inspiration with a chignon held in place by a pompom on the top of the head; the hair is well drawn in even strands and held back from the forehead by a hoop. Presence of the urna on the centre of the forehead, deeply carved, most probably being decorated with a stone or coloured glass at the time. Missing parts as can be seen.
This is not a historical Buddha, but a young nobleman, a Bodhisattva who is in the process of becoming a Buddha. He is recognisable by his hairstyle, ornamented like that of a prince: the smooth, high bun is composed of a double topknot, while a beaded diadem with a central cabochon is worn like a crown. The hair, with its regular, separate locks refer back to Western cannons of beauty. Buddha only wore a very simple bun, and such sophisticated hairstyles belong to his life as a wealthy young prince. Bodhisattvas' faces must reflect the qualities of the god. They must therefore show great harmony and grace, with a faintly drawn smile and an incontestable dignity. Artists from Gandhâra were therefore always in search of an aesthetic codification which could become iconic. Preferred depictions resembled this one, with large almond eyes which are a peculiarity of the Licchavi clan, who were Buddha’s ancestors. The half-closed eyelids are meant to resemble lotus leaves. In the middle of his forehead, is the urna, also called eye of wisdom, while the straight nose recalls the physical characteristics of Indo-Europeans.