Following a mission to the Peshawar district on the Indo-Afghan frontier, Alfred Foucher brought back some 100 pieces, including the famous "Foucher" bodhisattva (AO 2907), which were exhibited in the Louvre in 1900. These schist objects from northwest India constitute the Gandhâra collection, now housed in the Musée Guimet. Gandhara art, the first to give iconographic form to the account of the Buddha’s life and to establish this iconography as canonical, flourished under the foreign "barbarian" dynasty of the Great Kouchans (1st-3rd century). The Kushans ruled over a vast territory that stretched from Northern India to the foothills of the Pamir, straddling three different worlds. Long-awaited proof of this was provided by the Begram treasure, discovered by Joseph Hackin in 1937, and which included a whole series of Mathurâ-style Indian ivories found alongside Greco-Roman glassware and typical Han period Chinese lacquerware.
Under the terms of an agreement drawn up between the French and Afghan governments in 1922, the "French Archeological Delegation in Afghanistan" (DAFA) was founded. In 1925, following on from prospection carried out by Alfred Foucher around Kabul, Hackin began excavations at the Païtava site where the "Buddha of the Great Miracle" (MG 17478) was discovered.
Jules Barthoux, who joined the DAFA between 1925 and 1928, carried out excavations at Hadda, an exceptionally rich site where, for instance, the outstanding "Spirit with Flowers" (MG 17190) was discovered, revealing the existence of a remarkably vibrant stucco art under the Kidara Kushans and the hephtalites (4th-5th centuries). Finally, Bâmyân, in the heart of the Hindu Kush, on the old road to India between Bactria and Taxila, emerged as the spatial and temporal "missing link" between Foucher’s "Greco-Buddhist" art and the art of Turkestan during the period of the Western Turks (6th-7th centuries).