Small elegant female figurine, sculpted in dark schist, portrayed seated in western style on a large throne, wearing a long muslin skirt, her hair kept in place with a diadem leaving a row of curls surrounding the front, with one hand holding the vest and the other clasping what looks like a fly-whisk at the height of her shoulder. A long ornamental necklace pending from her neck.
The woman here depicted must have belonged to the upper class, her status indicated both by her jewels and the lifted fly-whisk, an unequivocal indicator of royalty in ancient Indian art. She might have been one of the many donors or patrons that encouraged the erection of Buddhist monuments as part of their duty as pious devotees. While the choice of a muslin vest could have been in tune with contemporary Kushan and Indian fashions, the rendition of the pleats and the western posture of the wearer was undoubtedly drawn from the classical repertoire, once again bespeaking of the intense cultural interchange between the Kushan and the Roman Empire. The style of the diadem and the large necklace instead would reflect the long standing commercial bondage between India and Western Asia.
The Gandhara region had long been a crossroads of cultural influences. Geographically it included roughly northwestern India between the Khyber Pass and the Indus River and the region of the Kabul Valley in Afghanistan. During the reign of the Indian emperor Ashoka around 3rd century B.C., the region became the scene of intensive Buddhist missionary activity; and, in the 1st century AD, rulers of the Kushan empire such as Kanishka (AD 129-160) maintained contacts with Rome and employed foreign artists from the eastern centres of the Roman Empire to realise many sculptural works. The many archaeological discoveries of Alexandrian and Syrian workmanship at Taxila in the Punjab and Begram in the Kabul valley testify to the cultural and diplomatic connections with the Graeco-Roman West.
The choice of a soft indigenous schist -the preferred medium of the early Gandharan artists- would indicate a date between the 2nd and the 5th centuries AD. During that period the Kushans were able to establish a strong empire and produced works of art reflecting both indigenous traditions and external influences. The detection of Greek and Roman elements in the Gandharan School testifies to the active exchange of ideals among all the civilizations of the Classical and Central Asian worlds. While the Gandhara School reached its climax toward the end of the second century with the production of the most significant large Buddha statues, the style continued to flourish into the third century until after the Sasanian invasion, and until the seventh century in Afghanistan. - (LO.510)
Ancient Near East