Gilt copper alloy
10th century, late Anurādhapura period
H. 8 cm or 3 ⅛ in
Very rare bronze from Śrī Laṅkā, dating back to the 10th century, representing Buddha Śākyamuni – the historical Buddha – here represented sitting in meditation with his hands in his lap (dhyāna mudrā). He is in the so-called noble pose (vīrāsana), his legs simply crossed one over the other, with only the sole of the right foot visible. From the top of his head is emerging the flame ornament (siraspata) which indicates his spiritual transcendancy. The monastic garment, here rendered plain, covers only his left shoulder and fine incisions highlight the folded shawl (saṃghāṭi) that falls to the waist and also on his back. Similar incisions are visible on the hem elegantly edging the robe and running across the chest and calves.
Admirable example of the Sinhalese Buddha style, this beautiful object presents a perfect balance of stylized shapes and finished with extreme refinement. The face, almost circular, shows the evident desire to reflect individualized features: the small and well-designed eyes, the large and flat nose and the fleshy mouth give a very lively expression. We are also very enthusiastic about the soft modeling of the torso and the very graphic geometry, created by the broad and robust shoulders, the slender waist and the angular knees.
Main subject of the sacred iconography, this representation of the Blessed One is part of the exceptional production, at the end of the second period of Anurādhapura (459-993), of small gilded bronzes destined for private oratories or to be used as ex-votos. It also fits harmoniously into the series published by Ulrich von Schroeder.
This rare Buddha comes from a private American collection since the late 1960s and was published and exhibited in 2003 at the Phoenix Museum of Art in the United States to illustrate the arts of Śrī Laṅkā.
Publication: Phoenix Art Museum, Guardian of the Flame: Art of Sri Lanka, Phoenix, 2003, p.84.
Exposition: Guardian of the Flame: Art of Sri Lanka, Phoenix Art Museum, 8 February – 11 May 2003; The Cantor Art Center, Stanford University, 2 March – 12 June 2005; University of Virginia Art Museum, 21 January – 19 March 2006.
Provenance: Private collection, US, since 1957.