Gallery Text

This finely detailed white marble sculpture — which, remarkably, retains most of its original polychromy — depicts the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, whose halo denotes his saintly status. The Buddha is dressed in monastic robes, which suggest his renunciation of the secular world to seek spiritual awakening. His right hand forms a mudra, or hand gesture, which signifies his pacification of fear and, in certain contexts, that he is in the midst of teaching. Comparatively rare in East Asia, white marble was often used for Buddhist sculptures produced in northern China under the Northern Qi and Sui dynasties. Almost all East Asian Buddhist sculpture, regardless of material, was gilded or polychromed; although the pigments obscured the sometimes precious materials, they imbued the image with a sense of lifelikeness, transforming the sculpture into a physical embodiment of the deity for use in ritual contexts.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Seated Buddha Shakyamuni, the Right Hand in Abhaya Mudra, the Left Hand Holding a Jewel
Work Type
figure, sculpture
late 6th century
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Six Dynasties period, Northern Qi to Sui dynasty
Level 1, Room 1610, Buddhist Sculpture, Buddhism and Early East Asian Buddhist Art
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Physical Descriptions
White marble with polychromy. Probably from Dingzhou, Hebei province.
H. 61 x W. 34.7 x D. 30.3 cm (24 x 13 11/16 x 11 15/16 in.)
[C. T. Loo & Co., Paris, April 29, 1932] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1932-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Osvald Sirén, "Chinese Marble Sculptures of the Transition Period", Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Stockholm, Sweden, 1940), no. 12, pp. 486-487, plate V b

Max Loehr, "Aesthetic Delight: An Anthology of Far Eastern Art", Apollo (New Series), Apollo Publications Inc. (London, England, May 1978), vol. CVII, no. 195, pp. 414-421, Cover (caption on p. 355)

Exhibition History

S426: Chinese Buddhist Cave Sculpture, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008

32Q: 1610 Buddhist Art I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at