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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 10 80 Inside Art with Denise Leidy In early Buddhist art, bodhisattvas are distinguished from one another by small differences in hairstyles and by the objects they hold in their hands. The long matted hair with its stylized topknot helps identify this sculpture as a representation of Maitreya, a bodhisattva in this world era who will become the teaching buddha of the next. He most likely once held a vase in his left hand, which has broken off. Maitreya wears jewelry that reflects his ties to the phenomenal world. His adornments include a torque at the neck that probably derives from nomadic traditions, such as those of the Scythians, as well as a heavy beaded necklace, and a chain with small containers that might have been used to hold amulets, incense, or medicinal herbs. In the scene depicted on the base of the sculpture, a male donor and a female donor kneel on either side of a begging bowl set beneath a canopy. This is an allusion to the begging bowl of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, and also suggests Maitreya’s role as the Buddha of the future. The artistic treatment of the long, skirt-like wrap and thin shawl worn by the bodhisattva tells another story. The heavy folds reflect the interest in the organic rendering of clothing that is found in Greek and Roman art. The hint of musculature in the chest is also an allusion to Greco-Roman art. The stylization of the pleats, seen, for example, at the lower left where the folds of the drapery mysteriously turn up, is typical of Pakistani traditions. Greek art was introduced to Afghanistan in the fourth century bce when Alexander the Great conquered that region, and continued to be cultivated there by his successors. In the late second century bce, Afghanistan was controlled by the Kushans, a confederation of nomads and pastoralists from Central Asia. By the first century, the Kushans, who followed several religious traditions, also controlled Pakistan and much of northern India. Sculptures such as this one, which were made in Pakistan, often show an awareness of Mediterranean traditions that were introduced from Afghanistan and continued to have influence because of trade and other exchanges with the Roman Empire. A Greco-Roman Maitreya Denise LeiDy is a curator of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in new york and the author of The Art of Buddhism. Bodhisattva Maitreya Pakistan, ca. 3rd century Height: 231⁄4 inches The Metropolitan Museum of Art RogeRsFund,1913(13.96.16)©metropolitanmuseumofart