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Seated Buddha

Figure of Buddha
550 - 577 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This sculpture depicts the historical Buddha, the Buddha Sakyamuni. It was initially brightly coloured, and traces of red and green pigment can be seen at the top of the halo. Colour was very important in Buddhist sculpture. In the 6th century, about one-third of the work would have been allocated to carving and two-thirds to painting. The symmetrical design and calm face of the Buddha induce a feeling of serenity, yet there is movement in the elegant upward swirling flames framing the halo.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Marble, sculpted
Brief Description
Buddha Sakyamuni; Scu, China, sculpture, 550-577
Physical Description
Buddha Sakyamuni, a Buddha with a halo decorated with 5 buddha figures, and swirling flame motifs. The Buddha has no hands and a large hole in his forehead. His lotus stand is integral to the symmetrical sculpture, and decorated with a lotus motif. The back of the sculpture is flat.
Dimensions
  • Height: 108cm
  • Width: 33cm
  • Depth: 19cm
  • Including modern base (black) height: 119cm
  • Including modern base (black) width: 87cm
  • Including modern base (black) depth: 62cm
Style
Production typeUnique
Gallery Label
Seated Buddha AD 550–77 Northern Qi dynasty China, probably Hebei Marble, with traces of coloured pigment This sculpture depicts the historical Buddha, the Buddha Shakyamuni. It was originally brightly coloured, and traces of red and green pigment can be seen at the top of the halo. The serene facial expression of the Buddha is heightened in intensity by the dynamic treatment of the arching flames that frame his halo. Bequeathed by Herbert Coleman Museum no. A.36-1950(1/4/2009)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Herbert Coleman
Object history
During analysis of the marble, it was discovered that large crystals are visible in the white marble from which the Buddha is carved. The original pigments detected, ultra marine and copper green, lie deep down on the sculpture of the halo and were probably applied as an egg medium. The next, more recent, layer is over most of the carved surface and is dark red, brown, black and bright green. Traces are too fragmented to provide a realistic indication of the colour scheme.



Colour was very important – in the 6th century, about thirty per cent of the work on a sculpture would have been allocated to carving, and seventy per cent to painting.



Historical significance: This sculpture depicts the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni, probably in a 'wish granting' gesture, though with both his hands missing it is difficult to be certain. The sixth century was a period of disunification in China, when different regional lords declared themselves rulers, with the result of several independent states co-existing at the same time. Yet it was this social turbulence that led to a flourishing Buddhist art, and many excellent sculptures, including the present example, were produced during this period.
Historical context
Three other matching sculptures are known: one in the Shanghai Museum, one in Cermuschi Paris and one in a private collection in Japan. All four said to have previously been in a stupa tower in China.
Production
(Possibly Quyang, Hebei Province). Some scholars think that this is a later piece.
Subject depicted
Summary
This sculpture depicts the historical Buddha, the Buddha Sakyamuni. It was initially brightly coloured, and traces of red and green pigment can be seen at the top of the halo. Colour was very important in Buddhist sculpture. In the 6th century, about one-third of the work would have been allocated to carving and two-thirds to painting. The symmetrical design and calm face of the Buddha induce a feeling of serenity, yet there is movement in the elegant upward swirling flames framing the halo.
Bibliographic Reference
Orientations; vol. 40. no. 4; May 2009; The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum. Lukas Nickel; Faith and Beauty. Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, p. 50
Collection
Accession Number
A.36-1950

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record createdSeptember 16, 2005
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