- Museum number
- Object: The Buddha
Standing Buddha, originally in 'abhaya-mudra'. The over-robe covers both shoulders and has an almost circular neckline with prominent ridged folds. In the front, the robe has regularly spaced and ridged folds following two schemes: a lower scheme of curves concentric with the neckline, which seems to be governed by the raised right forearm; and another of almost vertical folds from the neckline where, in addition, there seens to be a ridge of drapery rounding the vertical folds to the Buddha's right. This appears to reverse the usual direction taken by the backthrow. Nevertheless over the drapery folds on the back, which curve concentrically with the neckline, a backthrow hangs in the usual way behind and under the left forearm, and a length of drapery runs, without being held by them, across the left palm and between the thumb and index finger. The robe is slightly parted below the left forearm but a long undergarment can be seen only below the right arm and above the ankles. The surviving hand is large and the fingers, with distinguishable nails, partly separate pointing upwards. The feet, below columnar legs showing no ankle bones, are large and indifferently executed, with the toes flatter on the right foot.
The head is long and oval, with the features appearing almost applied on a gentle vertical curve to a narrow chin and long neck; the nose and mouth running slightly to the left. The hair is dense under a large uṣṇīṣa, with short grooved locks forming horizontal bands at the sides. Only in the middle, above the forehead, crescentic curls appear centred on a larger and circular curl. The eyebrows and eyes are horizontal, the eyes being long and narrow with distinct lids, and the ūrṇā in the middle is large and prominent. The thin nose is straight and without detail, and the upper lip is hardly distinguished above the groove separating it from the fuller lip below. The large ears are long, with an almost continuous raised border or helix, and close to the head with only the short lobes concave and projecting.
- Production date
Diameter: 7 centimetres
Height: 41.60 centimetres
Width: 16.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Although metal technology from tool-making to the abundant minting of a money economy was clearly well understood, Buddhist metal sculpture has proved elusive, with the examples known today being few, of modest size and mainly late. See also 1981.0610.1.
There is little modelling of the body. The abdomen and the back hindquarters can be distinguished under the fall of the robe, but the breasts are hardly indicated. The Buddha's stance is not wholly frontal: his right side has a forward movement, perhaps once enhanced by the lost hand as well as by the flexed leg. The face is most individual. Despite its youthful character, the long flat nose and the quite horizontal line of the eyes give it an unusual severity, examples of which can, however, also be found in later work in stone and in the stucco tradition. The face of an incomplete stucco figure, perhaps of a deity or bodhisattva (1887.0717.78), shows a great similarity, although executed in a much freer way and lacking the severity of gesture appreciated here.
The term ‘backthrow’ refers to that part of the over-robe or outer-garment which is thrown over the left shoulder after the body has been draped.
The precise metal composition of the figure can be found in "Indo-Tibetan bronzes" by von Schroeder, published in 1981 (p. 80).
Presumably once making the gesture of reassurance, this rare example of a Gandharan bronze has a face of great individuality with its youthful open-eyed expression recalling the vivid later stucco sculptures. The ridged garment continues the Western realism in the Gandharan treatment of drapery but also contributes, with the large feet and hands, to a certain heaviness. If the dimensions were sufficient proof, this bronze might be one found by Cunningham at Mānikyāla.
In Gandhara the Buddha was portrayed in his human form, not symbolically as had been the custom earlier in the Indian subcontinent. This image is a typical example and this model was adapted by the Chinese for their earliest images of the Buddha: the first Chinese bronze figures display the same U-shaped folds.
The very first Buddhist images in China had appeared only as incidental ornaments in tombs, mirrors and ceramics. In such contexts, they were equated with depictions of such spirits as the Queen Mother of the West. Under Chinese rule Buddhism was absorbed alongside other religious beliefs. Only under the rule of outsiders, from the fourth to the sixth century AD, such as the Liang in Gansu province and the Toba tribes (who took the title of Wei when they occupied North China), did Buddhism enjoy substantial imperial patronage. These foreign rulers encouraged the making of images in both stone and metal, including bronze, gold and silver.
- On display (G33/dc51a/s1)
- Exhibition history
Buddhism: Art and Faith, BM 1985
- 1.Brass, broken, cracked and patinated.
2.Right forearm broken above wrist, showing core material and leaving an irregular outline along the edge of the robe falling from it.
3.Cracked at and above right elbow and neck, with areas of damage on the back, beside each arm and on soles.
4.Rectangular pierced lug projects from back of head and modern tenons have been inserted into each heel.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- In a posthumously published memoir, Basil Gray, Keeper of the Department of Oriental Antiquities at the time that the British Museum acquired this piece, states that it had come from the Pitt Rivers Collection. No confirmation has been found in Museum records or in the manuscript Catalogue of objects collected by General Pitt Rivers which covers acquisitions for the period 1881-99. However Mr Ernest Ohly, formerly of the Berkeley Galleries, believes he knew the bronze Buddha when it was still in the Pitt Rivers Collection at Farnham.
- Registration number