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Sculpture - Throne of the Buddha

Throne of the Buddha

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Mathura (made)

  • Date:

    2nd century - 3rd century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Red carved sandstone

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dr Turton

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Buddhism, Room 47f, The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art, case South Wall

This red sandstone carving probably once formed part of a temple or shrine. It depicts the adoration of the empty throne, with a Buddhist emblem on it. The emblem can be variously interpreted as a throne cushion, a discarded turban headdress or a 'dharmachakra' ('wheel of law') symbol.

Early Buddhist artists were reluctant to represent the Buddha in human form. They preferred to indicate his presence symbolically. This relief indicates the Buddha's presence through an empty throne, attended by two attendants bearing fly-whisks, emblems of a world sovereign (‘cakravartin’), and flanked by winged-lion capitals.

Physical description

A red sandstone carving depicting the adoration of the empty throne. A representation of a niche having a column with winged-lion capital on each side, and enclosing a couch or throne and footstool. A Buddhist emblem, probably the Dharma Chakra or Wheel of the Law, is shown on the throne, and two human faces with ornamental head-dresses appear above the back. Below is a Buddhist rail and at each of the two bottom corners, the capital of a pillar.

Place of Origin

Mathura (made)


2nd century - 3rd century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Red carved sandstone


Width: 22 cm, Height: 33 cm, Width: 9 cm, Weight: 9 kg

Object history note

Veneration of the Empty Throne. This relief, which is contemporary with many Buddha images, provides a symbolic presence for the Buddha only. The empty throne has a disc on it, most convincingly interpreted as a solar disc (radiant) symbol of the Buddha.

Descriptive line

Relief depicting veneration of the empty throne, sandstone, Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, North India, 2nd-3rd century

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

P Pal, Light of Asia, Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art, Los Angeles Museum of Art, 1984, no 71
J Guy, Indian Temple Sculpture, V&A, 2007, pg 27
Guy, John. ‘Indian Temple Sculpture’, London : V&A Publications, 2007. p.27. pl.22.
ISBN 9781851775095

Labels and date

The Adoration of the Empty Throne
AD 100–300
Kushan dynasty
Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, North India
At the time this was made the Buddha was sometimes
represented by symbols rather than in human form.
Here, he is indicated by an empty throne flanked
by attendants with fly whisks (emblems of a world
sovereign). Under the throne is a footstool. The disc
resting on the seat is believed to represent the sun,
symbolic of the Buddha’s radiance.
Given by F.A. Turton
Museum no. IS.1039-1883 [1/4/2009]
The Adoration of the Empty Throne
AD 100–300
Kushan dynasty
Before the human image of the Buddha developed in
the 1st century AD, he was represented by symbols, such
as this empty throne. The practice continued while human
forms were also created. This image plays on the idea
of the Buddha as the spiritual equivalent of a king who
rules the whole world, or chakravartin. The disc resting
on the seat probably represents the sun, a symbol of the
Buddha’s radiance.
Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, North India
Museum no. IS.1039-1883
100–300 [03/08/2015]

Production Note

Uttar Pradesh, northern India





Subjects depicted





South & South East Asia Collection

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