Buddha Shakyamuni

Central Tibet

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 253

In this sublime and exceedingly rare early medieval depiction of the historical Buddha he is seen seated in a yogic meditation posture, with his right hand lowered and gesturing to the Earth Goddess at the moment prior to his enlightenment, when he steadfastly resistance all the temptations of desire. He displays a number of the auspicious marks of Buddhahood (lakshanas): the extended earlobes, which serve to 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 texts); and the highly pronounced skull protuberance (ushnisha). The presence of a flame-like projection surmounting the ushnisha is a rare and significant feature, for although it has a textual foundation, it is rarely represented in Tibetan or indeed Indian Buddhist art. The figure has a refined and smooth surface, with traces of gilding on the face and neck. Skillfully articulated fingers and toes add a poignantly human dimension to this otherwise rather abstracted and ethereal Buddha image. The subtle hint of a smile and the downcast expression masterfully capture the inner calm of Buddhahood and awakened bliss.

Buddha Shakyamuni, Brass with colored pigments, Central Tibet

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.