Head of Buddha

DATE:
2nd–3rd century CE
MATERIAL AND TECHNIQUE:
Schist
CLASSIFICATION:
Sculpture
DIMENSIONS:
Overall: 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 x 9 in. (46.99 x 26.67 x 22.86 cm)
DEPARTMENT:
Arts of Asia
LOCATION:
305 BUDDHIST GALLERY
CREDIT LINE:
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation
COPYRIGHT:
This work is in the public domain. Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.
OBJECT NUMBER:
1993.7

General Description

This example of Gandharan Buddhist art from the 2nd to 3rd century was carved from dark gray schist probably quarried in the area around Sahri Bahlol just north of Peshawar. The original standing Buddha with this head attached would have been about eight feet tall. In Buddhist art, the head of a buddha is not represented without the body. This reflects the Buddhist view that the enlightened state of a buddha entails the final perfection and full integration of all aspects of body and mind.

The serene, meditative state of the Buddha is suggested by the heavy-lidded eyes. The fullness of the arch of the eyebrows and the large size of the eyes and ears suggest the superhuman powers of perception attributed to the Buddha. The wisdom mark (urna) between the eyebrows indicates the ultimate perfection and integration of compassion and wisdom. Extended earlobes are emblems of royal status, probably because heavy gold earrings pulled them downward. The dramatic way lines of the hair, converging in the middle of the forehead and rising above the crown of the head in the "crown of wisdom" (ushnisha), suggest the dynamic power of the inner processes of enlightened awareness. The crown of wisdom, the full roundness of the head, and the strong "lion-like" jaw are three of the thirty-two main physical signs of a buddha. In addition to these thirty-two signs, an additional set of eighty marks is presented in the Buddhist canon as defining attributes of a buddha. These include his handsome appearance, a prominent nose, wide spacing of the eyes, long and arching brows, a strong and broad forehead, thick and untangled hair, and a relatively large head.

Adapted from

R. W. Clark, "Head of Buddha," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven: Yale University Press), 39.

Web Resources