Head of a Bodhisattva

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Head of a Bodhisattva

3rd-6th century A.D.,
H: 29 cm



Fine grey schist head of a bodhisattva (one of the paths to becoming a buddha). With a richly decorated headdress featuring a large central jewel, above which is a central cockade. To the sides are decorations of winged quadrupeds, carved in high relief. The face bears a serene expression and downcast eyes, with an auspicious forehead mark (urna) and wavy moustache typical of such representations.

His elaborately jewelled turban identifies him possibly as Avalokiteshvara, the earthly manifestation of the self-born eternal Buddha Amitabha and the bodhisattva of compassion, who protected against shipwreck, fire, assassins, robbers, and wild beasts and who was widely venerated in northern India between the 3rd and 7th centuries.

Centred on the Peshawar Valley and the Potohar Plateau, the kingdom of Gandhara was an ancient province deeply aligned with the teachings of the Buddha, since his death in 480 B.C. Known to the Greeks throughout antiquity, and for a brief period under the rule of Alexander the Great between 329 and 325 B.C, it was both an important trade route between the east and west, and a place where many foreigners settled. It became a melting pot of Greco-Roman, Chinese, Indian and Central Asian influences, causing a diverse yet idiosyncratic form of Buddhist art to evolve.


Previously in the Private Collection of Richard Kelton (1929-2019), California, USA, originally acquired in November 1982.
Thence by descent.
ALR: S00227158, with IADAA Certificate, this item has been checked against the Interpol database. 

Note on the Provenance

Richard Kelton (1929-2019) was a real estate mogul from California, USA, who built up a very sizable art collection during his lifetime, focusing in particular on Pacific art. The Kelton Collection was amassed over four decades, during Kelton’s lifetime, and became one of the most important holdings of Pacific art in the world, including the largest and most comprehensive collection of Australian Indigenous Art to reside outside of a public institution.

Kelton set up The Kelton Foundation in 1982 to exhibit, loan and research his collection. The Foundation has also sponsored numerous archaeological, ethnographic and scientific expeditions in the Pacific.

His love of Pacific art stemmed in part from his love of the sea, and if he could often be found at the helm of his 47-foot sailboat. His collection was for the most part housed in six interconnected apartments in Marina del Rey on the Californian coast, quite literally on the water.

A selection of his collection was sold at Christie’s after his death in 2019, and in December 2020 it was announced that a Swiss private collector, Mr. Bruno Raschle, had acquired the entirety of Kelton’s Australian Indigenous Art collection, in order to form a canonical personal collection.