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Buddha

Buddha

  • Place of origin:

    Bihar (probably, made)

  • Date:

    late 6th century - early 7th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Copper alloy lost-wax casting

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased jointly by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum with the assistance of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund, the British Museum Brooke Sewell Fund, the Friends of the V&A and private donors

  • Museum number:

    IS.3-2004

  • Gallery location:

    On display at the British Museum

This sculpture is an exceptionally rare and early metal image of the Buddha, also known as 'The Radiant Buddha'. It is probably the product of monastic workshops in Bihar, north eastern India, and represents the culmination of the development of early Buddhist imagery. The Gupta period marked a watershed in the evolution of the stylistic development of the Buddha-type and in the spread of Indian Buddhist influence. The Gupta period is credited with creating this quintessential Buddha-type, which was subsequently disseminated and emulated throughout the Buddhist world.

This figure was cast in the late phase of the Gupta era, which produced some of the most emblematic images of the Buddha. Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha (literally, the wise member of the Shakya clan), is represented with his hand raised in abhayamudra, the gesture of allaying fear, underscoring his role as a spiritual protector. This gesture is shared by images of all early faiths in India. The downward cast of the eyes and head are a reminder that the image of the Buddha, no matter what the scale, should be viewed from a lower position – this Buddha image would have served as a processional icon during the regular cycle of worship performed within a monastery or temple.

The standing figure is clad in pleated robes drawn over both shoulders in the ‘northern style’, with his raised right hand with outward palm, the left hand lowered and holding the end of his robe. The hair curls, skull protuberance and webbed fingers are part of the 32 auspicious marks (laksanas) symbolic of his attainment of Buddhahood. The treatment of the body and its translucent form-defining quality has created a figure that embodies both spirituality and sensuality.

Physical description

Standing figure of the Buddha Shakyamuni, 'The Radiant Buddha' clad in pleated robes, raising right hand with outward palm, the other hand lowered and holding the end of his robe. Right hand index finger missing, and areas of metal loss on back, exposing clay core material.

Place of Origin

Bihar (probably, made)

Date

late 6th century - early 7th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Copper alloy lost-wax casting

Dimensions

Height: 35.5 cm, Height: 38 cm including metal tangs under the feet, Width: 14 cm, Weight: 12 kg estimate

Object history note

Acquired by George Plouvier in 1968, thence to Baron F. Rollin 1968, J. Soref 1982, private collection 1999.

Historical significance: An exceptionally rare and early metal image of the Buddha, probably the product of monastic workshops in Bihar, eastern India.

Descriptive line

Standing figure of the Buddha Shakyamuni, clad in pleated monk's robes, with one hand raised in the gesture of protective reassurance, the other holding the end of his robes. From north eastern India, probably Bihar, late 6th -early 7th century. Cast copper alloy over a clay core. Index finger missing, some metal loss to back, and evidence of repairs.

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

U von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, pl. 45C
J Guy, Art Fund Review, 2004

Clarke, John: Arts of Asia, vol. 45, no. 5, September - October 2015, "The Buddha image in Asia: Phase One of the Robert H. N.Ho Family Foundation Galleries of Buddhist Art", p.118, pl. 8.
pp.56-7, Cat. 1:4
Willis, M. (ed.) India: the Art of the Temple, Shanghai Museum, 2010
Orientations; vol. 40. no. 4; May 2009; The Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum.
Clarke, John: Buddhist Sculpture, p. 37.
p.135, Cat.91
L'escultura en el temples indis : l'art de la devoció : exposició organitzada per la Fundació "La Caixa" i el Victoria & Albert Museum, Londres. [Barcelona: Obra social, Fundació "la Caixa", c2007 Number: 9788476649466
p.44, pl.45
Guy, John Indian temple sculpture . London: V&A Publications, 2007

Labels and date

Buddha Shakyamuni
AD 550–650
Late Gupta dynasty
Bihar, North-East India
Copper alloy
This quintessential standing Buddha figure was copied
throughout Asia, wherever Buddhism was carried
by Indian traders and monks. It shows the Buddha
as the ‘Sage of the Shakya clan’, with one hand raised
in the gesture of abhaya mudra or allaying fear. The
hair curls, webbed fingers and head bump or ushnisha
(signifying spiritual wisdom) are lakshanas or marks
of Buddhahood.
Purchased jointly by the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British
Museum with the assistance of the National Heritage Lottery Fund, The
Art Fund, the V&A, the British Museum Brooke Sewell Fund, the Friends
of the V&A, private donors. Museum no. IS.3-2004/BM Asia 2004.0401.1
550–650 [1/4/2009]
5. Buddha Shakyamuni
550-650
Late Gupta period

This quintessential standing Buddha figure was copied throughout Asia, wherever Buddhism was carried by Indian traders and monks. It shows the Buddha as the ‘Sage of the Shakya clan’, with one hand raised in the gesture of abhaya mudra or allaying fear. The hair curls, webbed fingers and head bump or ushnisha (signifying spiritual wisdom) are lakshanas or marks of Buddhahood.

Copper alloy
Eastern India, Bihar

Purchased jointly by the V&A and the British Museum with the assistance of the National Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund, the British Museum Brooke Sewell Fund, the Friends of the V&A, private donors.
Museum no. IS.3-2004/BM Asia 2004.4-1.1
[30/06/2014]

Subjects depicted

Buddhism

Categories

Sculpture; Buddhism; Metalwork

Collection

South & South East Asia Collection

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