Identification and Creation
Object Number
Attributed to Zanabazar, Mongolian (1635 - 1723)
Standing Bodhisattva Maitreya
Work Type
figurine, sculpture
second half 17th century
Creation Place: East Asia, Mongolia
Physical Descriptions
Gilt bronze with blue pigment in the hair and traces of other pigments in the eyes and mouth
H. 62.4 x W. 21.5 x D. 19.4 cm (24 9/16 x 8 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
Weight 28 lb.
John West (by 1963), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1963.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of John West
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 2740 Buddhist II , written 2014
This gilt bronze sculpture represents the Bodhisattva Maitreya, who will one day be reborn into our world as the Buddha of the Future. He is identified by the stupa (a Buddhist mortuary monument) in his crown and by the vase containing an elixir of immortality that he holds in his left hand. His long hair and the antelope skin on one shoulder distinguish him iconographically from more austere depictions of Maitreya as a buddha. The sophisticated play of different textures — the way the matte pigments of the painted irises and blue-accented hair contrast with the glossy mercury gilding of the body — suggests that this may be a work by the Mongolian sculptor and politico-religious leader Zanabazar (1635–1723), a key figure in the military and religious turbulence that beset the Mongols during the seventeenth century. As the leader of the Geluk tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Zanabazar crafted several such images of Maitreya for use in the sect’s annual Maitreya Festival.

Publication History

Pratapaditya Pal, The Art of Tibet, exh. cat., Asia Society Museum (New York, 1969), pp.145-146, no. 47

Susan L. Huntington and John C. Huntington, Leaves from the Bodhi Tree: The Art of Pala India (8th-12th centuries) and its International Legacy, exh. cat., Dayton Art Institute (Dayton, Ohio, 1989), pp. 390-391, no. 158

Marilyn M. Rhie and Robert A. F. Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, exh. cat., Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, 1991), p. 141, no. 32

Terese Tse Bartholomew, "An Introduction to the Art of Mongolia", Mongolia: The Legacy of Chinggis Khan, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (San Francisco, 1995), pp. 76-87, p. 79, fig. 4

James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 86-87, illustrated

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 103

Francesca Herndon-Consagra, Reflections of the Buddha, exh. cat., Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MO, 2011-2012), p. 26 (installation image); pp. 30-31 (installation images, details); p. 43, no. 16

Exhibition History

Reflections of the Buddha, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 09/09/2011 - 03/10/2012

32Q: 2740 Buddhist II, Harvard Art Museums, 11/01/2014 - 05/21/2015

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

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