A massive & imposing image of the Buddha conveys with an emphatic simplicity great spiritual power & presence. As is usual with figures of such antiquity, the head & hands are now missing. The appearance of the figure is characterised by the elegant fall of the robes, a convention that became the main defining principle in the determination & evolution of artistic style in the traditions of Chinese Buddhist sculpture. The figure wears the traditional monks' robes that are gathered over the left shoulder & attached by a bow & a floral-like motif. On the reverse side the robes are again defined by broad sweeping lines of great simplicity & sophistication. Two square perforations on the back may have once been the fixing points for the mandorla, or merely lifting points. The position of the arms suggests that the right hand was originally held in the "abhaya mudra", the gesture of assurance, & the left hand in the "varanda mudra", the gesture of granting a wish. The combination of these gestures, with the style & the date of the figure suggests that it represents "Amitabha Buddha", the Buddha of the Western Paradise. At this time, the late 6th & early 7th Centuries, the teachings of the Paradise Sutras were becoming the mainstream theology of Buddhist China & the image of its principal deity, "Amitabha Buddha", the most popular figure.
Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg.249.
The marble from which the figure is carved suggests the region of Dingzhou, Hebei Province, as the place of origin.
Asian Art Dept, AGNSW.
Figure of Buddha
Sui dynasty 581 - 618 → China
581 CE-618 CE
210.0 x 81.0 x 42.0 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 1997
Not on display
Shown in 2 exhibitions
Referenced in 11 publications
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 249 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies, Look, 'Buddha lands', pg. 20-23, Melbourne, Oct 2001, 22 (colour illus.).
Jill Sykes, Look, 'New Era for Gallery's Asian Art', pg. 22-23, Sydney, Sep 2003, 22 (colour illus.).
Michael Wardell, Look, 'Foundation building', pg.14-17, Sydney, Sep 2004, 15.
LIU Yang, Orientations, 'The Discovery of Mass: A Footnote to the Stylistic and Iconographic Innovation in Chinese Buddhist Sculpture', pg. 88-95, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 90 (colour illus.), 91 (colour illus.). fig.3 and 3a (reverse)
Unknown, Art Gallery of New South Wales: highlights from the collection, Sydney, 2008, 164 (colour illus.), 165 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 165 is a detail of this work.
Chinese Buddhist sculpture, London, Jun 1997, 26 (colour illus.), 27 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 26 is the back of this work. The entry is both in English and Chinese.
Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Annual Report 1998, Sydney, 1998, cover (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), Buddha: Radiant awakening, Sydney, 2001, 102 (colour illus.), 186. cat.no 75
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, China 'Buddhist Art', Sydney, 2003, 94-95 (colour illus.). The colour illus. on page 95 is a detail of this work.
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales Annual Report 2004, Sydney, 2004, 31 (colour illus.).