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This tall, slender image of Maitreya most likely is from the Srivijaya kingdom centred on south Sumatra and dates to the 7th-8th century. Srivijaya was an early Malay, pre-Islamic, Buddhist kingdom with strong trade links to the region. It was also a centre for missionary activity by monks and scholars from India who spread Buddhism and then Hinduism to the region.
The image belongs to a Buddhist ascetic tradition and is unclad save for a long striped waistcloth secured with a waistband. However, local departures from the ascetic aesthetic include a necklace, upper arm bands and bracelets, all presumably intended to represent the gold jewellery appropriate for a god-like deity.
The chignon is high and overflows from the top with cascading loops of hair.
The image can be identified as Maitreya because of the two stupa motifs – one front and one back – in the hair (jatamukuta). These are relatively large.
The ears are elongated, and the face is well defined and pleasing. A kendi-like vessel (kamandalu) which contains the elixir of life is held upright in the palm of the left hand.
Kempers (1959, pl. 174) illustrates a Maitreya bronze figure found at Palembang, which essentially approximates to where the Srivijaya capital is believed to have been located.
Maitreya images are relatively rare among early Southeast Asian Buddhist images, and this is more so in the case of Indonesian Buddhist images.
The example here has a splendid brown patina and very obvious age. It is presented on a wooden stand.
Guy, J., Lost Kingdoms: Hindu Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2014.
Kempers, A.J.B., Ancient Indonesian Art, CPJ ven der Peet (Amsterdam), 1959.