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Gilt-Bronze Figure of Sakyamuni


Height: 12.8 cm. (5 in.)

Tang dynasty 唐
8th century

Published: Zuitō jidai no Kondō butsu, “Gilt-bronze Buddhas of the Sui-Tang Period,” a Special Exhibition at the Kubosō Memorial Museum, Izumi City, 1993, no. 125.

Provenance: formerly in a Japanese collection

The body is solid cast seated cross legged, the right palm raised in a gesture of reassurance, and the left resting on the knee. He wears heavy monastic robes draped over the shoulder and falling in folds in front to reveal the bare chest. The head of the Buddha is cast with a full face beneath helmet-like hair. There is a pierced tab on the reverse for attachment. The figure is generously gilded.

The Buddha with one hand raised and one resting on his knee represents the “Teaching Buddha,” the sage passing the Word of the Law to his disciples and the faithful. Yet more important are the characteristics that identify and define the special place in the history of Chinese Buddhist sculpture that the present piece occupies: volumetric, dignified and spiritual. Tang Buddhist images balance the reality of flesh and blood with the super-reality of the divine and even figures of such small size as the present Sakyamuni possess these distinctive qualities.

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