Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara)
Schist; 10 15/16 in. (27.8 cm)
Samuel Eilenberg Collection, Purchase, Rogers, Dodge, Harris Brisbane Dick and Fletcher Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1987 (1987.218.5)
After renouncing his luxurious existence in search of an end to the suffering caused by infinite rebirths, Siddhartha went through six years of profound austerity. At one point, he is said to have eaten only a few grains of rice a day. This subject originated with the artists of ancient Gandhara (an area encompassing parts of present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan), who clearly emphasized Siddhartha's emaciated body; his visible ribs and veins are poignant testimony to years of spiritual trials. The theme was common in Gandhara and though it is not found in later Indian Buddhist sculpture, it reappears in Chinese and Japanese art of the Chan/Zen tradition.