Gandhara was an ancient region, once located in an area between modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, to which a wide range of Buddhist stone sculptures with strong Hellenistic and Roman aesthetic features are attributed. Gandharan reliefs and statuettes of Buddhist immortals are famous for their harmonious combination of the local religious spiritual concepts and the idealised naturalistic styles of classical sculptures of Greek and Roman art. Most of the Gandharan schist sculptures and plaques exclusively relate to Buddhism. However, decorative themes driven from Classical mythology are present too, largely from the 2nd-3rd centuries BC. In Greek Mythology Atlas was a Titan condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for eternity. Such is the position shown in this fine stone fragment, with Atlas bent to hold the sky, here represented by the top outer frame. The plaque portrays the profound impacts of classical fashions and cultures on Gandharan art and how the locals adapted new ideas, shaping them into numerous masterpieces to encompass the charms of both classical and Gandharan civilisations.
Gandharan Relief of Seated Atlas
A finely carved grey schist Gandharan high relief fragment, depicting the Greek Titan Atlas, dating to circa the 2nd-3rd century BC.
The figure is portrayed squatting with his right leg shown vertically and turned slightly outwards. His left leg is presented almost horizontal, sloping below the knee The tops of his boots are sensitively sculpted with horizontal bands, echoing the detailed depictions of his garment’s folds. One of his arms naturally extends from the body, resting on his relaxed left leg. His right arm is depicted bent at the elbow, holding the plaque’s upper frame that might resemble the mythological sky. This seems to create the impression of him bearing the weight of the sky on his shoulder, as per the Greek mythology. The sensitively sculpted curves under his chest accentuate his muscular physique. Facial features, such as hair, nose, lips and moustache, are rendered in a naturalistic manner with much attention given towards details. The flat surface on the reverse indicates that the piece was originally attached to a surface behind it, rather than free-standing.
Condition: Fine, earthly encrustations to the surface.