The Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future
Nepal (Kathmandu Valley)
Copper alloy with gilding and color
H. 26 in. (66 cm); W. 8 1/4 in. (20.9 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1982
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 252
Maitreya, the messianic bodhisattva characterized as the Buddha of the Future, stands in a graciously exaggerated posture, the body beautifully counterbalanced. He holds his raised hand in the gesture of exposition (vitarka mudra) and in his lowered hand displays a flask (kamandalu) universally understood in South Asian culture as the container of amrta, the elixir of life. In a Buddhist setting, the flask is understood as the promise of Maitreya’s coming. The elegant aesthetics of this sculpture embody contemporary eastern Indian Pala styles, yet it displays a startling elegance combined with an almost austere economy of surface decoration: jewelry is restrained, textile patterns minimally suggested. The scale is exceptional, as is the aesthetic sensibility of the artist responsible for this work.