Embroidery from Afghanistan, £10.99
Height: 12.900 cm
Width: 9.000 cm
Depth: 12.400 cm
Brooke Sewell Fund
Asia OA 1978.3-6.1
Room 33: Asia
Stucco head of a monk
Said to be from Hadda,
4th-5th century AD
With traces of pigment
From the time of his Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha spent the next four decades of his life preaching across northern India and establishing monastic communities for both men and women. According to some early texts, he is said to have attracted about five hundred disciples by the time of his death. From the earliest times Buddhist teaching has revolved around what is called the ‘triple gem' or the triratna , which consists of the Buddha, the dharma (Buddhist teaching) and the Sangha, the monastic order responsible for continuity of the teachings. However, early representations of these monks are not common.
This face may be that of a monk. His rounded hairline forms recesses at his temples, the edges over his eyes project unevenly and convey bushy eyebrows over deep set eyes. The nose is bold and broad and the lips are shaped into a large, full mouth set in an oval face. This kind of face is less common in the Gandharan region, and the individualism of the features prompts one to believe that it might be a portrait, perhaps of a monk who came from India. Also, considering the date of this sculpture, it is possible that it is influenced by sculpture of the late Kushan period (1st-3rd century AD) from Mathura, or even sculpture of the Gupta period (AD 320-550) from central and North-eastern India.
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)
W. Zwalf, A catalogue of the Gandhara sc, 2 vols. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)