Stucco head of a monk


British Museum

British Museum

From the time of his Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha spent the next four decades of his life preaching across northern India and establishing monastic communities for both men and women. According to some early texts, he is said to have attracted about five hundred disciples by the time of his death. From the earliest times Buddhist teaching has revolved around what is called the ‘triple gem' or the triratna , which consists of the Buddha, the dharma (Buddhist teaching) and the Sangha, the monastic order responsible for continuity of the teachings. However, early representations of these monks are not common.This face may be that of a monk. His rounded hairline forms recesses at his temples, the edges over his eyes project unevenly and convey bushy eyebrows over deep set eyes. The nose is bold and broad and the lips are shaped into a large, full mouth set in an oval face. This kind of face is less common in the Gandharan region, and the individualism of the features prompts one to believe that it might be a portrait, perhaps of a monk who came from India. Also, considering the date of this sculpture, it is possible that it is influenced by sculpture of the late Kushan period (1st-3rd century AD) from Mathura, or even sculpture of the Gupta period (AD 320-550) from central and North-eastern India.

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  • Title: Stucco head of a monk
  • Date Created: 300/499
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 12.90cm; Width: 9.00cm; Diameter: 12.40cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted; moulded
  • Subject: monk/nun
  • Registration number: 1978,0306.1
  • Production place: Made in Gandhara. Made in Afghanistan
  • Place: Found/Acquired Hadda
  • Material: stucco
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Barling. Funded by Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund