India, probably Bihar
Late 6th century
Copper alloy
H. 27 in. (68.6 cm); 1979.8



Artist Comments

Bjorn Amelan and Bill T. Jones
To engage the late sixth-century Bihar Buddha is to experience sound. Hands, face, body, and garment convey this impression.

First the hands, slightly exaggerated in size, obviously composed according to a prescribed vocabulary of holy mudras, give the impression that this personage has been caught up short, in surprise at some sudden sound. The elegant right hand is at once a salutation, "Behold!" and a command, "Listen!"

The sensitive scowl of the face does suggest trance-like introspection. However, the sage seems to be listening as well. Is it to a sound from within or to some other, detected by his aristocratic ears with their divinely elongated earlobes? Maybe both?

And Buddha's garment, a film of otherworldly transparency and lightness, responds like a pool of water to a breeze or some strong vibration. The navel, like a bright stone beneath the surface, seems to be its origin.

His lithe inert body could have been moving a moment before, but has been immobilized now by that sudden awesome sound that was just released like a bell, a clap of thunder, or a scream.

Mary McFadden
The Ganges is stirred by the tramping of horses and elephants; disturbed by movements of fishes and turtles; but the river flows on. Buddha is like the great river.

Even in Buddha's raiment, the stylized flow of cloth resembles the great river. The perfection of the Buddha's physical appearance is revealed in transparency. One thousand years earlier, Greek sculptors carved statues of gods and goddesses as if windswept water fell in rippling effects down the lines of their muslin robes.

The Buddha stands in the abhanga position, in which one leg is slightly bent to give a feeling of potential movement. His right hand is held in the gesture of reassurance. In his left hand her grasps an unattached piece of cloth, that may have been the end of his shawl in earlier prototypes.

It is speculated that the first Buddhas to appear in China were not dissimilar to the sixth-century Bihar image. The body type is elongated with a narrow torso, thicker thighs, a square shaped head, and a long elegant nose. The image has rigidity, elevated in tranquility.