Bust of Śākyamuni Buddha
Northeast India (Bihār, Bengal)
Circa 10th century, Pāla dynasty (8th-12th century)
H. 43 cm
This beautiful representation of the Blissful One is of a significant size. Originally, Buddha was probably figured sitting on a lotus, his right hand sketching the fear-allaying gesture (abhaya mudrā) while his left hand was resting in his lap. The monastic garment he is wearing covers his left shoulder only. Of the distinctive signs (lakṣaṇa) of a “great man” (mahāpuruṣa), tradition kept only two essential items in its images, both of which are evident here: the fleshy protuberance on the crown of the head (uṣṇīṣa) and the whorl of hair on the lower forehead (ūrṇā). The earlobes distended by the wearing of heavy gold jewelry demonstrate the renouncing of the vanities of his former worldly life. The face was surrounded by a halo, as evidenced at the base of Buddha’s right earlobe. Stylistically speaking, this piece appears to predate that characterizing Pāla art as of the 11th century. The elongated face, with its full lips and somewhat protruding eyes, is similar to post-Gupta art of the 7th-8th century, and beyond that to classic Indian art of the 5th-6th century.
Provenance: Private collection, Germany, acquired in the 1960s.