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Seated Buddha Torso

Asian Art

On View: Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor
This figure's monastic garment, seated position, and hand gestures, and the two deer in the center of the throne, indicate that it represents the Buddha's first sermon, which he delivered in the deer park at Sarnath. The image is probably from Nagarjunakonda, a southern city that was one of the greatest art centers in ancient India. Its sculptors produced a large body of Buddhist imagery in a distinctive green limestone, mostly for the queens and princesses of the Ikshvaku dynasty, which ruled the region from the second to the fourth century.

This Buddha is seated in a half-lotus posture, the left hand on his lap forming the dhyana mudra (gesture of contemplation). The broken right hand must once have been raised with its palm out, making the abhaya mudra (gesture of reassurance). The wheel on the sole of the Buddha's foot refers to the wheel of the law, which he set in motion when he gave the first sermon. The seated lions that flank the deer on the front of the throne are associated with royal and heroic virtues. Despite the soft, voluminous effect created by the swelling forms of the Buddha's body and drapery, the image is actually quite flat, suggesting that it was made for display in a shallow niche.
MEDIUM Green limestone
  • Place Made: Andhra Pradesh, India
  • DATES late 3rd century
    PERIOD Ikshvaku Period
    DIMENSIONS 16 1/2 × 15 × 4 1/8 in., 59 lb. (41.9 × 38.1 × 10.5 cm, 26.76kg)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor
    ACCESSION NUMBER 86.227.24
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Seated Buddha Torso, late 3rd century. Green limestone, 16 1/2 × 15 × 4 1/8 in., 59 lb. (41.9 × 38.1 × 10.5 cm, 26.76kg). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.227.24. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 86.227.24_SL1.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 86.227.24_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Image of the Buddha Shakyamuni seated in meditation. The figure's head and lower right arm are void. The image is carved in the round, but its overall form is flattened, suggesting that it was carved from a shallow slab of stone. The Buddha wears a monastic robe draped over one shoulder and there is a wheel incised on his foot (representing the dharmachakra, the Buddhist emblem for righteousness). Beneath the Buddha figure is a throne platform with images of lions at either end and a pair of deer at the center. The deer suggest that the image represents the Buddha giving his first sermon, at the site of a deer park in Sarnath, India. If this is the case, then the right hand may have originally been raised in a gesture of teaching, or (more common for a raised right hand) the gesture of reassurance. The green limestone and smooth, rounded forms of the sculpture recall carvings found at the southern Indian site of Nagarjunakonda, which was an active Buddhist center under the patronage of the female members of the Ikshvaku royal family.
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