Group of Buddhist sculptures from the upper monastery at Nutta, Peshawar District 10031109
Photographer: Serrot, M.
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a group of Buddhist sculptures from the upper monastery at Nutta, Peshawar district, taken by M.Serrot in 1883. This is one of a series of photographs taken by M. Serrot, and reproduced in photogravure as Plate 19 of 'Illustrations of Graeco-Buddhist sculptures from the Yusufzai District', in volume I of Henry Hardy Cole's 'Preservation of monuments in India' (c. 1885). Cole wrote of this image, which was printed from a broken glass plate, "The fragment on the left represents the worship of the Dharma-chakra, Triratna, and, Tirchakra symbols, by shaven-headed monks. Some months after the photograph was taken, I obtained the right half of the panel containing more monks. The centre figure represents a seated layman of rank. The throne is supported on legs representing lions. The right hand is upheld. The left hand holds what resembles a small vessel. In other similar statues a lotus flower is held, probably a signal of rank. The usual torque amulet and chain, with clasps, are worn round the neck. The hair is bound in a simple manner by a band of beads or jewels. On the right, is a portion of a panel representing a chief or king, on his throne with lion legs, under a canopy. A small figure on his left is standing on a Corinthian column, fanning him. Two seated figures are represented beyond. The two fragments underneath are parts of a narrow circular frieze that enveloped the base of a tope and represent a procession of ascetics."
From the first and second centuries AD onwards, Peshawar district, in northern Pakistan, was becoming well known for the production of sculptures like those pictured here. Known as Gandhara, it was ruled by a dynasty of Chinese origin called the Kushans. They were Buddhists and under their influence, the religion, and the arts associated with it were allowed to flourish. The reign of the Kushan king Kanishka, is particularly well known for its artistic achievements and it was during his reign, from 78 AD, that we find the first examples of the Graeco-Roman influenced Gandharan style of sculpture. The classical influence on these sculptures can be clearly seen in the figures draped clothing, their curly hair and the naturalistic modelling of their bodies.