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Gandharan relief sculpture of Kushani soldiers

unknown3rd century AD

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Canada

This panel depicts six Kushan soldiers in conversation. The Kushan Empire of the 1st to 4th centuries CE ruled parts of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. The panel shows six soldiers against a plain background. They are paired in conversation and are overlapping and touching in such a way that the design must have been carefully planned before carving. They show a variety of different hairstyles, and are all bearded. Each one carries a large sheathed sword attached on a belt. Their military costume consists of long-sleeved tailered tunics, baggy trousers and padded boots, appropriate for the winter of mountainous central Asia. The soldiers represent a new middle-class, and their costumes reflect Parthian prototypes. To the left of the soldier scene is a yakshi, or female nature divinity, standing on a water pot and grasping the leaves above (or "salabanjika"). Her gesture signifies procreation and abundance and is often used to convey the figure of the Buddha's mother. While the focus of the panel is the portrayal of the soldiers, the yakshi is a visual reminder of the Buddhist context in which this panel would have originally belonged. The Kushan state was particularly successful at encompassing a complex mixture of ethnic and cultural groups of Central Asia and Northern India, producing a rich and unique culture. The art produced during this period is called Gandharan art, and represented a new height of sculptural achievement and expressiveness.

Details

  • Title: Gandharan relief sculpture of Kushani soldiers
  • Creator: unknown
  • Date: 3rd century AD
  • Location: Peshawar Valley, Gandhara, Pakistan
  • Physical Dimensions: w50.5 x h23.6 x d5.1 cm
  • Provenance: This purchase was made possible with the support of The Reuben Wells Leonard Bequest Fund.
  • Type: Relief
  • Medium: Carved grey schist
  • Accession Number: 939.17.19

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