Gandhāran relief with musicians

Ancient province of Gandhāra
2nd-5th century
D. 7 x 36 cm or 2 ¾ x 14 ⅛ in

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Two scenes with picturesque characters are separated by various vegetal motifs. One detail is immediately recognizable: on the right, a musician is playing a string instrument. One must look at the details of the wavy hair, the folds of the clothes, the positions and gestures of great vivacity! As for the vegetal decoration, one can appreciate the heart-shaped leaves of the ficus religiosa or Bodhi tree in the center, with their magnified proportions.

This frieze is a fine example of the innumerable reliefs that were part of the decoration of religious structures in the ancient province of Gandhāra. It admirably illustrates the narrative capacity of this Gandhāran art, its taste for anecdote, its ability to represent scenes evoking the daily life of this region, and the attention given to varied decorative motifs, floral and geometric.

To place this sculpture in its original context, it should be recalled that the Gandhāran monasteries Gandhāra monasteries had two types of areas: courtyards accessible to devotees and crowded with all sorts of ex-voto monuments, such as reliquary tumuli (stūpa) and chapels, and beyond that an area reserved only for monks. In the public areas, the bases of the stūpa, the door and window surrounds, the plinths and sometimes even the risers of the stairs bore numerous reliefs, juxtaposing decorative motifs and apologetic narrative scenes.

Provenance:  Private collection, Europe.

Condition report:

The piece is in a good condition. It is covered with sand concretions and probably with the remains of a preparatory layer that was used to receive the original polychromy. The color of the schist, tending towards grey-green, is visible in the losses. On the flat, polished upper surface, notches suggest that this frieze was topped by another element.

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