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Figure - Buddha Shakyamuni

Buddha Shakyamuni

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Nepal (possibly, made)
    Tibet (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    16th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Copper with gilt and paint

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South-East Asia, Room 47a, case 13

The style of this Buddha Sakyamuni, and of a series of consecration drawings on paper found inside its base early in the 20th century (see Museum no. IM.121E-1910), shows that it was made by Nepalese craftsmen. The recovery in 2001 of further drawings depicting the lineage of the 'Black Hat' (or Karmarpa) order points to its worship in Tibet and probable commissioning by a Tibetan patron. The image also has a face covered with 'cold' or painted gilding (as opposed to the fire gilding seen on the rest of the body). Such face painting is a peculiarly Tibetan consecration practice, and this reinforces the idea that it comes from Tibet. It was obtained during the British military expedition to the country in 1904.

Physical description

Buddha Shakyamuni of copper with gilt and paint.

Place of Origin

Nepal (possibly, made)
Tibet (possibly, made)


16th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Copper with gilt and paint


Height: 41.9 cm, Length: 34.3 cm of base

Historical context note

Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, retained great popularity in the Himalayas despite the rise of a system of transcendental Buddhas in the Vajrayana school. The gilded figure is seated in a meditation posture on a lotus throne (padmasana), his right hand " touching the earth" (bhumisparsamudra) variously described as an allusion to the Buddha's resistance of the temptations of Mara and of calling the earth to witness his attainment of buddhahood.
A series of Tibetan drawings, no later than the fourteenth century, were discovered inside this image, suggesting that it had been in worship in Tibet. It was reportedly collected during the British expedition to Lhasa in 1904.

Descriptive line

Buddha Shakyamuni, copper with gilt and paint, Tibet or Nepal, 16th century, made by Nepalese craftsman

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

p. 15, pl. 2
Tibetan art / John Lowry. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1973
p. 85
Ayers, J. Oriental Art in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London 1983, ISBN 0-85667-120-7

Labels and date

Buddha Shakyamuni
Buddha Shakyamuni is the historical Buddha. The style
of this image, as well as drawings found inside the base,
shows that it was made by Nepalese craftsmen. Other
drawings depicting the lineage of the Black Hat (or
Karmarpa) order suggest that it was worshipped and
possibly commissioned in Tibet. The painting of the face
with crushed gold is also a Tibetan practice.
Copper with gilding and paint
Tibet or Nepal
Made by Nepalese craftsman
Museum no. IM.121-1910 [14/06/2011]


Copper; Paint; Gilt


Embossed; Gilt

Subjects depicted



Buddhism; Sculpture


South & South East Asia Collection

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