Joost van den Bergh

Stucco head of Buddha Shakyamuni


Pakistan, ancient region of Gandhara,
circa 4th century
Height: 52 cm; 20 ½ inches


Provenance: private collection, Japan, private collection UK

Detail Description

This larger than life-size stucco head of Buddha originates

from the Gandhara region, the area that is present-day

Afghanistan-Pakistan. The sensitive modelling of this head is

distinguished by great attention to detail, this was achieved

by working in stucco, giving it a more expressive quality

compared to the formal, somewhat harder, images in stone.

The technique of stucco was an invention of the late

Hellenistic period in Alexandria, where gypsum was first

used as a cheaper substitute for marble. As trade relations

with the Roman West intensified in the early first century,

the technique spread from there to Iran and India. Heads

of statues were constructed on a rough core of lime plaster

mixed with straw and small stones, which was then covered

with an outer layer of finer stucco for the modelling of the

features and hair.

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Stucco head of Buddha Shakyamuni