The French scholar Alfred Foucher (1865–1952) maintained that the sources of classical cultural impact lay in Greek cities nearer at hand; those of Bactria, reinforced by fresh influences from Greece. He suggested that the conversion of the Bactrian ruler Menander (c. 150–100 B.C.E.) to Buddhism planted “the germ of the whole subsequent development of Greco-Buddhist [Gandharan] art.” Foucher’s contemporary, Sir John Marshall, dated the high period of Gandharan art to the first century C.E., when the Parthians—not the Bactrians—revived contact with the classical world. Still other scholars have discounted Greek influence in favor of Roman influence on Gandharan statuary.
We cannot yet provide exact dates for the arrival of Buddhism in Gandhara, for the founding of the Kusana empire, or for the carving of the first Buddha statues. The earliest known likenesses of Buddha date to the first century C.E.
In 1926, Ananda Coomaraswamy argued that the origins of the Buddha image are to be sought in the art of India proper (“The Indian Origin of the Buddha Image,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 46, pp. 165–170). Prototypes for both standing and seated images are already present in Mathura in the yaksa figures from the first three centuries B.C.E. and in the representations of Jina from the late first century B.C.E. Following Coomaraswamy, the Dutch scholar J.E. Van Lohuizen-de Leeuw made a strong case for the priority of the Buddha image in the art of Mathura.