stair-riser / panel
Panel, perhaps from a stair-riser, showing dancers, a chariot with riders and perhaps beggars. From right to left there is a vestige of a leg, sloping and frontal; beside it, under vine leaves, a squat plump figure, head depressed into the shoulders, loincloth hardly more than a codpiece and with a plain armlet, stands holding an indistinct lump in his right hand while the left seems to hang clumsily at his side. Beside him, a figure turning slightly to his right, with long hair and a knee-length tunic open at the side, holds a lute across the body, his right hand and forearm narrowing in low relief on the strings. A vine slants above his arm between him and the next figure, who is apparently dancing, both arms above his head, one leg raised and wearing only a paridhāna with drapery gathered up in front and spreading as it falls. Beside him another musician, dressed like the first, blows into a shawm or pipe played with both hands. Above them spread large vine leaves. All the figures are male, suggestive of amorini but somewhat crude and rustic. A cart, facing the left, contains two seated figures, one behind trailing his arm over the side and one in front apparently naked, save for thick anklets, who rests his feet on a short platform in front and perhaps brings his hands together. Above the hands a broken fragment is probably part of another pendent leaf or branch. Pulling the cart by the pole or between shafts is another naked figure seen in three-quarter view from the back. The cart has low sides, perhaps of vertical planks, and is mounted on high wheels, densely spoked, the inner wheel in a strange perspective, in low relief and larger than the outer. Above the figure drawing the cart are probably vestiges of vine stalks. While similar to the first group, these three figures seem younger and more like amorini.
In front of the cart are three much larger naked males. The first squats in Gandhāra fashion with one leg on the ground and the other vertical to the knee. One hand rests on a thigh while the other is held across the chest. The body is plump and partly turned to his left; genitals appear between the legs. The head, with long hair, turns towards the amorino pulling the cart as though addressing him. Behind him a similar but walking figure carries a third who seems of the same size. The squatting posture in the one case, the suggestion of helplessness in the other and what seem to be unhappy expressions, although they may be only the result of crude carving, leave the impression that these three may be mendicants, sick or drunken folk. Above them appears to be a short length of a branch with vestiges of leaves.
Although these figures show some differences, they share what seem only slightly varying hairstyles, most with a low chignon over the forehead or to the side. Only the figure sitting at the back of the cart has a chignon on top of the head, a short hairstyle and a hint of earrings. The execution throughout is crude, necks hardly appear, the eyes are small, rounded and protruding and the mouths slits.
- Made in: Gandhara
- (Asia,South Asia,Pakistan,North West Frontier Province,Peshawar,Gandhara)
- Found/Acquired: North West Frontier Province
- (Asia,Pakistan,North West Frontier Province)
- Height: 17.2 centimetres
- Width: 42.8 centimetres
- Diameter: 5.7 centimetres
The horizontal framing elements are as on the Jamalgarhl risers (see BM 1880.54).
The action on this length seems to run from right to left: the small figure with a lump in his hand, receiving or offering, may presuppose another cart with fortunate riders, different from the next or the same in continuous narration, to which the first group of three offer a musical welcome; the unhappy figures on this length may then be a prospective set of beneficiaries. If one of the Four Encounters of the Bodhisattva is intended, the iconography is unconvincing, and if a jātaka, that of Viśvaṃtara seems excluded.
If this length is an adaptation from a classical procession on a sarcophagus, such as the marriage of Bacchus and Ariadne or the triumph of Dionysus, it has in common with them two figures in a chariot, musicians and dancers and a figure, admittedly unlike the drunken Pan, being carried. The treatment of the latter scene suggests an original more like the flagellation of Pan. But if adaptation there is, it is altogether considerable, as appears from other examples of the type.
1.Grey schist, broken, chipped and with soil incrustation. 2.Top, where undamaged, flat and smooth and with vestige of deep cramp mortise; bottom flat with some chisel marks and a rectangular tenon; right side irregularly broken on slant; left side damaged at probably original end. 3.Back with vertical chisel grooves and broken to leave almost no depth on left.
Formerly at Bisham Abbey, Nr Marlow, Bucks. Nothing is now known of how the piece came to be at Bisham Abbey; for a history of the house see Long and Dickinson, 1985.
Panel. Carving showing a chariot holding two amorini and being pulled by another towards three drunk, sick, or indignant persons. On the other side and facing away from the chariot, a group of young musicians and dancers. Originally perhaps part of a stairriser. Made of schist, relief carved.
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Object reference number: RRI11521
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