Kimbell Art Museum
Pakistan, Gandhara region
1st-2nd century A.D., Kushan period
59 1/8 x 30 x 10 in. (150.2 x 76.2 x 25.4 cm)
Acquired in 1997
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas
In Buddhism, the bodhisattva is a saint who has passed through the 10 degrees of perfection necessary to achieve nirvana but who chooses not to become a buddha. Instead, he elects to stay on earth and relieve the suffering of less enlightened others. Other than the buddha himself, the bodhisattva is the most recognizable icon of Buddhist art.
This standing bodhisattva from the Gandhara region of ancient Pakistan (today's northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan) exemplifies the cross-cultural influences in the area at that time. In 326 B.C. Alexander the Great of Macedonia, attracted by the area's military and commercial potential, brought Greek culture to Gandhara. In the next century, Buddhism was adopted as the state religion by the Kushan dynasty (c. 50 B.C.- A.D. 320). Though Buddhist, the Kushan rulers maintained strong ties with Rome and the Catholic Church. The blending of cultures is evident in this bodhisattva, attired in the clothes of an Indian prince but with the body, hair, and facial features found in classical Hellenistic statues. While sculpting techniques and adornments were drawn largely from the Western tradition, the iconography of Gandhara art remained decidedly Indian.
Buddhism and its iconography fell from favor in Pakistan shortly after Islam was introduced in the 7th century A.D. Although representations of the bodhisattva continued to be created elsewhere in Buddhist Asia, the blending between West and East typical of Gandhara sculpture has not been seen again. The standing bodhisattva of Gandhara remains an enduring symbol of an ancient and diverse culture.
The standing bodhisattva has been part of the Kimbell Art Museum's Asian Art collection since 1997.
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