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IN016 – Pensive Prince Siddhartha

Christie’s Title:
A Gray Schist Frieze with a Pensive Bodhisattva

Period:
2nd/3rd Century

Country of Origin:
India

Material:
Grey Schist

Dimensions:
18W × 5.5D × 14H (cm)

Provenance:
Private collection, Japan, acquired 1986-1990.
Sold in Christie’s Indian & Southeast Asian Art, New York, 12 September 2012, as lot 502 to BTRTM.

Description:
This alto rilievo relief panel—due to its diminutive size—likely was part of a larger piece. It is divided into three sections. The sections are separated by two Corinthian columns, indicating that the narrative takes place spatially in the same location.

The first section on the left shows a standing female figure facing the prince. She stands with her right leg crossed in front of her left leg. Her right hand is placed on her abdomen and her left hand supports her left cheek. Her head is slightly tilted to her left and she is scantily dressed with only a skirt and a simple necklace.

In the middle and main section, Siddhartha is depicted as a Prince in the palace seated in lalitasana (‘royal ease’ posture) on a cushioned bench with His right leg on a raised pedestal and left leg raised and resting on the His right thigh. His right hand supports His right cheek with His head slightly tilted (mirroring the left standing female figure) while His left hand touches His left ankle. Wearing a shawl covering His left shoulder and a dhoti, His hair is tied up in a top knot and He appears aghast, staring in front.

The scene on the right shows the side view of a figure (likely female) holding onto the column that separates her and the Prince with his left hand. Gazing slightly upwards towards the Prince, she is half-naked wearing only a dhoti. Behind her is a large Corinthian pillar with two smaller-sized figures: the left figure appears to be male and fully naked. He uses a clarinet-like, single-reed instrument while the right figure has both hands beating a drum in front and at the level of his groin. Its unclear if these two figures are actual persons or decorations on the column itself.

Above the columns on the balustrade can be found three spectators gazing downwards (only their heads and shoulders are seen).

The presence of the musicians and the two flanking female figures coupled with the disgust expressed by the prince indicates strongly that this is a depiction of the antaḥpura (referring to the royal harem) scene when the prince was seduced by the female attendants in His palace before His Great Departure from the palace.

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