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A mottled red sandstone sculpture of the bust of a man with two smaller men by his sides.

The mottled red sandstone sculpture is of a man with two smaller men, one of his right side and one of his left side, with a round half circle shape above them. They are sculpted from the waist up and facing the viewer. The man in the center is wearing a cloth that drapes over his left shoulder and arm. His left arm is broken off and his right arm is bent up next to him. His right palm is facing up towards his face. His earlobes are long and his hair is put into a bun on top of his head. Both of the men by his sides are wearing a necklace. Their right hands are on their right shoulders, holding a long stranded object behind their backs. The round shape behind the men has carved details such as leaf outlines.

Gallery Text

Although its popularity would not take hold in China until several centuries after its introduction during the Eastern Han period (25–220 CE), the religious teachings of Buddhism began in South Asia around the 5th century BCE, and by the 3rd century BCE, figural images with distinctive regional styles arose. Two grew to particular prominence, later serving as major inspirations for artisans in Central Asia and China. In the northwestern region of ancient Gandhara (parts of present-day India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan), artisans working in brightly polychromed gray schist or white stucco took their cues from Greek sculpture, creating figures with Classical facial features, thick curly locks, and heavy drapery. Gandhara was ruled by a series South Asian Buddhist Sculpture of Indo-Greek kings from the fourth century BCE onward and long served as an important artistic gateway between India and the West. Meanwhile, near the northcentral Indian city of Mathura, artisans drew inspiration from indigenous Indian sculptural styles, celebrating the corporeality of the body, which they draped in diaphanous robes that revealed its structure. Mathuran images were typically sculpted in mottled red sandstone quarried in nearby Sikri, and like their Gandharan counterparts, they were naturalistically painted. Visual elements drawn from both of these styles are visible in the early Chinese Buddhist sculptures on display in the next gallery.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Stele with Bodhisattva and Two Attendants
Work Type
early 2nd century
Creation Place: South Asia, India
Kushan period, c.100 BCE-250 CE
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1610, Buddhist Sculpture, Buddhism and Early East Asian Buddhist Art
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Physical Descriptions

Mottled red Sikri sandstone with buff veins; from Mathura
H. 18.5 x W. 21.5 x D. 7 cm (7 5/16 x 8 7/16 x 2 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Robert H. Ellsworth, New York, 1982] sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1982.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Ernest B. and Helen Pratt Dane Fund for Asian Art
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Publication History

  • Hongnam Kim, The Story of a Painting: A Korean Buddhist Treasure from the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, exh. cat., Asia Society Museum (New York, NY, 1991), pp. 2, 58; fig. 2

Exhibition History

  • S424: Indian and Southeast Asian Sculpture, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 08/01/2008
  • 32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/18/2024
  • 32Q: 1610 Buddhist Art I, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/18/2024 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at