Published: January 7, 2003
RICHMOND, VA. – Created nearly two millennia ago to adorn a temple near the village of Hoti Mardan in Gandhara (present-day Pakistan), the large stone sculpture of Buddha lay buried for centuries.
In 1880, a farmer plowing a field in the Peshawar District of northwest India accidentally uncovered remains of the temple, and the 34-inch-tall sculpture again saw the light of day. A village chieftain, the Khan of Dubyan, gave the magnificent piece to a British district inspector of schools in India, Charles Pearson, who in turn gave it in 1881 to his alma mater, Charterhouse, a well-known boarding school in Surrey, England.
For another 121 years, the sculpture was housed in a small museum at the school.
But this year, in order to raise funds for the school’s library, the Charterhouse governing body decided to sell its treasured Buddha. Sotheby’s, the New York auction house to whom the sale was consigned, used an image of the sculpture on the cover of the catalog for its September auction. The piece was purchased by an anonymous bidder, and for several months, authorities and lovers of the art of Southeast Asia speculated intently: Who purchased this rare and stunning Buddha?
Now, the suspense has ended. The Buddha has been added to the world-renowned collection of Indian art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
“Very rarely does piece of this provenance, this age, this aesthetic quality, this historical interest, come on the market, and we are delighted beyond words to have acquired it,” said Dr Michael Brand, director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
The figure, carved from dark gray schist by an unknown sculptor of the Second or Third Century AD, is cross-legged in a seated position, in a pose of meditation. His facial expression is serene and his earlobes are pierced and elongated to demonstrate that he had worn heavy gold earrings as a young and worldly prince.
The sculpture is expected to go on view in late 2003.
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