In the Buddhist art of China and North Asia, Maitreya is represented as both a Buddha and a Bodhisattva. The Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, is said to have visited Maitreya in the Tushita heaven when he appointed him to be his successor. For this reason Maitreya is also known as the 'Future Buddha'. In later times and in yet another form, Maitreya became one of the most popular of Buddhist images as Budai, the manifestation of the Future Buddha: always represented as a fat jolly fellow commonly referred to as the 'laughing Buddha'. Here Maitreya is represented as a Bodhisattva, identified by the hands held in the dharmachakra (teaching or turning the wheel of the law) 'mudra', with the legs pendant: the only deity in the vast pantheon of Buddhist gods to be shown seated in the European manner. Also visible are the now broken stems of the lotus flower traditionally held by Maitreya. The ornate 'dhoti' tied at the waist and elaborate necklaces, headdress and jewellery are all characteristic of Bodhisattva images of this time, when the influence of the Tibetan style was being felt.
Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg.251.
Figure of Manjusri
Figure of Maitreya
Place where the work was made
Yuan dynasty 1279 - 1368 → China
69.0 x 40.0 x 31.0 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Where the work was made
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Gold and civilisation:
Buddha: Radiant awakening, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Nov 2001–24 Feb 2002
Great collections (2009):
- Campbelltown Arts Centre, Campbelltown 12 Dec 2008–18 Jan 2009
- Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, Murwillumbah 06 Feb 2009–15 Mar 2009
- Western Plains Cultural Centre, Dubbo 03 Apr 2009–10 May 2009
- Albury Regional Gallery, Albury 29 May 2009–05 Jul 2009
- Art Gallery of Ballarat, Ballarat 24 Jul 2009–30 Aug 2009
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–13 Mar 2016
Glorious, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 27 May 2017–06 Jan 2019
Referenced in 10 publications
Edmund Capon, Look, 'The Arts of Asia', pg. 20, Heidelberg, Apr 1997, 24 (colour illus.).
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 251 (colour illus.).
Judith White, Look, 'A landmark for the city', pg. 16-19, Melbourne, Apr 2001, 17 (colour illus.). In this publication this object is titled 'Figure of Maitreya'.
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, 94 (colour illus.). fig.6
Buddha: Radiant awakening, Sydney, 2001, 165 (colour illus.), 188. cat.no. 121
The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, China 'Buddhist Art', Sydney, 2003, 98 (colour illus.).
A dealer's hand. The Chinese art world through the eyes of Giuseppe Eskenazi, London, 2012, 214 (colour illus.). pl. 96
The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bulletin, 'The Collections', pg. 44-45, Sydney, Feb 1997-Apr 1997, 45 (colour illus.).
Gold and civilisation, Canberra, 2001, 191 (colour illus.).
The arts of Buddhism, Sydney, 2001, back cover (colour illus.).