India (Uttar Pradesh, Mathura)
H. 33 11/16 in. (85.5 cm)
Purchase, Enid A. Haupt Gift, 1979 (1979.6)
This image of the Buddha embodies the qualities of inner calm and stillness, the products of supreme wisdom. The figure would have made the abhayamudra gesture with his raised right hand (now missing), dispensing fear and imparting reassurance to his followers. The musculature and frontal pose are reminiscent of king-warrior-savior figures of preceding centuries and are especially associated with the Kushan period. The Buddha wears the simple uncut cloth of a monk, gracefully drawn around the body so as to define form, creating an image that is at once powerful and sensuous. A large halo emanates from behind his head, adding to the religiosity of the representation, as do the auspicious markings (lakshanas), both natural and supernatural, which denote preordained sanctity and a state of Buddhahood. The skull protuberance indicates enlightened wisdom, and the hair curls and extended earlobes are signs of renunciation and the denial of greed. As the summation of Buddhist stylistic development in a period of Buddhist expansion, this type became the benchmark for Buddha images throughout Buddhist Asia, emulated most successfully in Sui and Tang China.