A New Kouros: The Influence of Greek Art on Gandharan Statues

The Gandhara art refers to the artistic production, mainly represented by reliefs in stone or clay, documented in the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent, northern Pakistan, and in Afghanistan, starting from the 1st Century BC till the 4th -5th Century AD. This production is characterized by being almost exclusively related to the Buddhist religion: Gandhara reliefs were in fact part of Buddhist holy monuments, such as stūpas or vihāras.

Gandhara Statuette of Buddha Maitreya
gandhara buddha stone head statue
Proto-Gandharan Garland Holder

Indian, Iranian and Hellenistic Culture

The style and iconography of Gandhara art refers to a competition of elements of different traditions: Indian, Iranian and Hellenistic. Gandhara art is also known as Greco-Buddhist art, a cultural syncretism between Classical Greek culture and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 1000 years in Central Asia, between the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC and the Islamic conquests of the 7th century AD.

Gandharan Panel Relief with Buddha

An Extraordinary Cultural Syncretism

As soon as Alexander the Great invaded India to form the Indo-Greek kingdom, a fusion of Hellenistic and Buddhist elements started to appear, encouraged by the benevolence of the Greek kings towards Buddhism. Greco-Buddhist art is characterized by the strong idealistic realism of Hellenistic art and the first representations of the Buddha in human form, which have helped define the artistic, particularly sculptural, canon for Buddhist art throughout the Asian continent up to the present.

Himation and Contrapposto

One of the most peculiar characteristics of this new art, strongly influenced by Greek aesthetic and culture, is the himation, the typical Greek draped robe covering both Buddha’s shoulders. The pose of Contrapposto, a sculptural scheme first propagated by the ancient Greeks, is also visible in many example of Gandhara standing statues of Buddha.

Schist Gandharan Buddha

Discover our selection of Gandhara pieces…

By Virginia,

  Filed under: Decorative Techniques, Gandhara, India & Bactria, Imagery & Symbolism   Tags: , , , , , ,
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