Altarpiece dedicated to the Buddha Maitreya (Mile fo)
late Northern Wei (386–534)–Eastern Wei (534–550) dynasty
Gilt bronze; probably piece-mold and lost-wax cast
H. 23 1/4 in. (59.1 cm); W. 15 in. (38.1 cm); D. 7 1/2 in. (19.1 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1938
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 207
The Buddha in this altarpiece can be identified as the Buddha Maitreya upon comparison with the larger dated and inscribed altarpiece that is also in the collection. In both, the Buddha is surrounded by an entourage of music-making apsaras, the angel-like beings that appear frequently in Buddhist art. Here, a pagoda-like structure bearing images of seated Buddhas can be found at the top. The shape of the chamber is similar to those found in Chinese reliquaries and may refer to the remains of a practitioner devoted to the Buddha Maitreya, one desirous of rebirth in the Tushita Heaven, a paradise inhabited by this Buddha. The slightly plumper face, squarer shoulders, and softer drapery seen here represent a transition between the court style associated with Luoyang and the fuller bodies and thinner drapery adopted in the second half of the sixth century, after the collapse of the Northern Wei dynasty.