Bronze figure of Maitreya

Excavated near the Helmand river, Afghanistan, Central Asia
10th century AD

Central Asia has played a key role in the transmission of ideas from India to China in the East and to the Western world. It has important sites lying along one of the most significant trade routes in history, right from the earliest periods. In the ancient period this melting pot became the seat of the Gandharan style of art, of which The British Museum has some of the most significant collections. As this bronze image shows, even in medieval times the region continued to remain open to a wide range of influences.

This small statue shows the bodhisattva Maitreya seated in the lotus position on a throne. He has a bare torso and wears a flowing diaphanous lower garment with incised pleats. The sculpture shows affinity with the contemporary style of imagery from nearby Kashmir. The oval face with full cheeks, are themselves a Kashmiri adaption of the Gupta style from mainland India. His long sharp nose, elongated half-closed eyes with silver inlay, three pronged crown and modelling of the torso also show Kashmiri influence. The presence of two lions (simha) on either side of his throne, make it clear that it is of the classic simhasana type. Even though the fingers on his right hand are broken, it is clear that they would have been held in varadamudra (the gesture of charity), while his left hand holds a water pot (the attribute of Maitreya)

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Height: 21.590 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1957.2-12.3


Gift of Louis Clarke, Esq. through the National Art Collections Fund


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