Bronze figure of the Buddha Shakyamuni

From eastern India
7th century AD

This beautiful little bronze statue of the Buddha Shakyamuni was created at a Buddhist monastery workshop in eastern India, probably in the state of Bihar. It was made in the first half of the seventh century shortly after the end of the Gupta dynasty (fourth to sixth century AD) in what may be called a 'post-Gupta' style. It retains many of the features typical of the Gupta period: the figure is soft, gentle and simple, with heavy lidded, downcast eyes and 'snail shell' curls. It has an emotional serenity generally lacking in such figures of the preceding Kushan period.

The statue is made of bronze and features a finely carved head with stylized curls and delicate features. The robes are folded and drawn across both shoulders and 'wet drapery' defines the bodily form beneath. The downward cast of the eyes indicates that this image was designed to be installed in an elevated position, on an altar, and, on occasions, to be carried in processions. It displays a number of the supernatural marks of Buddhahood, including skull protuberance and webbed fingers.

In the history of Indian art, this type of Buddha is important in the stylistic development and spread of Indian cultural influence throughout Asia. It is credited with creating the quintessential Buddha-type, which spread and was copied throughout the Asian Buddhist world - in Pala eastern India, in Licchavi Nepal, in Tang China, and among the newly formed Hindu-Buddhist states of Southeast Asia.

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More information

Bibliography

W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

Von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes (Hong Kong, Visual Dharma Publications, 1981)

Dimensions

Height: 35.500 cm

Museum number

Asia 2004.4-1.1

RRI33766

Jointly owned by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum and purchased with contributions from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the National Art Collections Fund, the Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund (BM), the Victoria and Albert Museum, Friends of the V&A and private donors.

Location

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