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Asian art

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Shakyamuni and Maitreya

2nd century-3rd century


Unknown Artist


The Gandharan school of Buddhist sculpture was one of the very first that articulated the sculptural image of the Buddha, and hence it is important in a consideration of Buddhist sculpture, as well as Buddhism. This double-sided sculpture features the historical Buddha Shakyamuni on one side and the Future Buddha Maitreya on the other. Shakyamuni can be identified by the 'cranial bump' or 'ushnisha', the elongated earlobes and the rippling monk's robe which covers both shoulders. Maitreya, by contrast, wears the garb of royalty and is depicted as a 'bodhisattva' (a compassionate being who has deferred his or her own Enlightenment in order to help others), with a moustache, distinctive looped hairdo, elegant robes, jewellery and sandals. He carries a waterpot which is a distinguishing attribute of his deity. A two sided sculpture like this, originally probably part of a pillar or similar supporting structure is rare.



Kushan period mid 1st century - early 5th century


2nd century-3rd century

Media category


Materials used



51.0 x 17.0 x 15.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

  • Walking with gods, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Jun 2019–05 Jan 2020

The provenance of this work is under review and records will be updated as new details become available. The Gallery welcomes any information. Contact


Alex Biancardi, pre 1996-Nov 1998, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, on loan to the Art Gallery of New South Wales since November 1996.

Private Collection, Nov 1998-Oct 2003, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, by descent. Purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2003.

Referenced in 2 publications


Jackie Menzies, Look, 'Evolution and enlightenment', pg. 30- 32., Sydney, Jun 2015, 31 (colour illus.).

Ann Maria Quagliotti, From Turfan to Ajanta. Festschrift for Dieter Schlingloff on the occasion of his eightieth birthday., 'Back to back Buddha and bodhisattva images in Gandharan art', pp. 813-824, Lumbini, 2010, 818 (illus.). Illustration is a diagram