This image of the Buddha is from the private collection of Sir David Tang, the founder of the luxury fashion chain Shanghai Tang, and who passed away in 2017.
It is carved from sandstone and has been lacquered and gilded with gold leaf. The image is in the calling-the-earth-to-witness gesture (bhumisparsha mudra).
The face is full and rounded, which harks back to the earlier Inwa period. The ear lobes are elongated and as such are those of a prince.
The right shoulder is covered slightly and the rest of the arm is exposed. The left is covered with a robe or sash that covers the torso.
The image has several layers of lacquer and gilding suggesting veneration over time – re-lacquering an image was regarded as an act of merit. Accordingly, old minor chips and losses have been lacquered over as part of these acts of veneration.
A related 18th century sandstone example is illustrated in Somkiart Lopetcharat (2007, p. 163).
The ‘ calling-the-earth-to-witness’ pose, refers to the occasion when the Buddha, seated in meditation under the Bodhi tree on the evening before his enlightenment, is challenged by the demon Mara to prove that he had given alms. The Buddha touched the ground with his right hand and asked the earth to bear witness to his past good deeds (Fraser-Lu & Stadtner, 2015, p. 152).
The image has a lovely patina and wear. Losses are minor – the end of the thumb of the resting hand has been lost (but then subsequently lacquered over) for example. Overall, this is a fine, sculptural item with an interesting provenance.
Fraser-Lu, S., & D.M. Stadtner, Buddhist Art of Myanmar, Asia Society Museum, 2015.
Murphy, S. (ed.), Cities and Kings: Ancient Treasures from Myanmar, Asian Civilisations Museum, 2016.
Somkiart Lopetcharat, Myanmar Buddha: The Image and its History, Siam International Books Company, 2007.
Tingley, N., Doris Duke: The Southeast Asian Art Collection, The Foundation for Southeast Asian Art and Culture, 2003.