Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide Art of Buddhism
This Sui dynasty (581–618) altarpiece is dated by inscription to 597. The inscription on the rectangular base identifies sixteen donors by name who contributed funds to sponsor this image. Several of them appear to have been women active in the Sui court.

The inscription does not identify which Buddha or bodhisattvas in the Buddhist pantheon have been depicted. The central Buddha holds his right hand in the "fear not" gesture and his left in the "giving" gesture. The bodhisattva on the Buddha's left holds an open lotus blossom and the other holds either a lotus bud or what is likely a representation of the Buddhist jewel.  The Buddha appears in monastic dress looking elegantly plain, while in contrast the bodhisattvas wear flowery headdresses, long floating ribbons, and jeweled chains.  All three figures have "peach-shaped" halos that are inclinded slightly forward, which contributes to a sensation that the figures are drawn together in some form of human interaction.

Historical Buddha and bodhisattvas
Historical Buddha and bodhisattvas
Northern China, Sui dynasty dated 597
gilt Bronze
height of group on stand 32.1 cm
width of base 14.1 cm
gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1914.21
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
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