H. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm); W. 10 7/16 in. (26.5 cm); D. 8 5/8 in. (21.9 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Oscar L. Tang, Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang and Annette de la Renta Gifts, 2012
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 253
This is a sublime and exceedingly rare early medieval depiction of the historical Buddha in meditation posture. His lowered right hand gestures to the earth, calling upon it to bear witness to his resistance of the temptations of Mara immediately prior to his moment of enlightenment. He displays a number of the auspicious marks of Buddhahood (lakshanas): the extended earlobes that remind the viewer of the Buddha’s former princely status; the three rings on the neck; the forehead mark (urna, a curl of hair according to the texts); and the highly pronounced skull protuberance (ushnisha). The flamelike projection surmounting the ushnisha is a significant feature of this work. Its presence is rare in Tibetan art, or indeed Indian Buddhist art, and although it has a textual foundation, it usually appears only in medieval Buddhist art of southern India and Sri Lanka. The subtle hint of a smile and downcast expression masterfully capture the inner calm of Buddhahood and awakened bliss. The figure has a refined and smooth surface, with traces of gilding on the face and neck. The robes are rendered as elegant lines, which follow the body’s contours. The end of the Buddha’s robe forms a beautifully pleated skirt beneath his folded legs. Skillfully articulated fingers and toes add a human dimension to this otherwise rather abstracted and ethereal Buddha image.