Head of a Buddha

  • Hadda or Taxila
  • 4th -5th centuries A.D.
  • Stucco with polychrome
  • H-26.5 W-17.6
Catalogue Entry

This large head of a Buddha image is thought to have originally been part of an over-life-size sculpture. There are traces of polychrome, with cinnabar on the ushnisha (cranial protuberance), the eyebrows, the outlines of the eye sockets and the wings of the nose, the edges of the eyelids, the groove beneath the nose, and the earlobes. The cinnabar red on the lips is extremely fresh and not original. The formalized portrayal of the hair indicates that this image was created from a mold. The right ear seems to have been made separately and attached; only traces of the left ear remain. In addition to the smooth bridge of the nose, the intellectual facial features, and the sharp curve of the eyelids of the half-closed eyes, the strong tightening of the swell of the lower lip at the base of the mouth and the fleshy cheeks are related to the sensual Gupta style.

In Hadda and Taxila a stucco sculpture was made by first winding rope around a wood armature affixed to a wall and then modeling the general form of the figure by building up clay mixed with vegetable fiber around the rope core. Extremely fine clay was then used to finish the surface, and a particularly high grade of white clay was used for the face, which was then decorated with polychrome. The thin elements, such as fingers, were formed around cloth-wrapped wires. The eyes, nose, mouth, and details of the clothing were modeled by scraping with a spatula. The use of clay enabled repairs to be made more easily than on stone sculptures, and the texture of the soft material was especially suited for expressing of the qualities of flesh and drapery. Frequently faces, chests, and torsos were molded separately, a technique that allowed for the mass production of figures in a rich variety of poses. This production method was fundamentally the same as that used in China and Japan. TK