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Figure of buddha - Seated Buddha

Seated Buddha

  • Object:

    Figure of buddha

  • Place of origin:

    Hebei (probably, made)

  • Date:

    550 - 577 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Marble, sculpted

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Herbert Coleman

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.

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.

Place of Origin

Hebei (probably, made)


550 - 577 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Marble, sculpted


Height: 166.7 cm, Width: 92 cm, Depth: 40 cm

Object history note

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 note

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.

Descriptive line

Buddha Sakyamuni; Scu, China, sculpture, 550-577

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

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

Labels and date

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]

Production Note

(Possibly Quyang, Hebei Province). Some scholars think that this is a later piece.


Buddhism; Sculpture

Production Type



East Asia Collection

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