01. Maitreya

Nepal, Licchavi Period 
Circa 8th/9th Century
Copper alloy
Height: 15 in. (37.9 cm.)

European Private Collection

"With the fire of great love burning the fuel of anger, the light of pristine awareness removes the darkness of ignorance; heir to the Conqueror's Dharma, upcoming leader of beings; to the one residing in Tushita, I bow."

Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, stands gracefully in a relaxed pose and wears a high three-leaf crown and ceremonial scarf (khata) tied below the waist.  Numerous incised lines indicate the details of his close-fitting garments, illustrating the interest in naturalistic details which characterizes Nepali sculpture of the 8th and 9th Centuries.

Compare Leidy, Treasures of Asian Art: The Asia Society's Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, New York, 1994, fig. 58, a stylistically related figure of Avalokitesvara.  The authors note: “The smooth torso, broad shoulders, long legs, and relaxed posture of this early depiction of Avalokitesvara reflect the impact of the Gupta style—which prevailed in north India from the fourth through the sixth centuries—on the art of Nepal.  Nepali traditions, however, are seen in Avalokitesvara’s broad face, full cheekbones, and elegant features.  Different from the facial features of Indian bodhisattvas, which are small and full, those of this bodhisattva are larger and thinner: the elegant curves of the eyebrows and eyes and the long thin line of the nose are distinctively Nepali.”  Also see von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, Vol. I, India and Nepal, 2001, pp. 496 and 497, for related examples of the same Period.

The Licchavi dynasty originated in India, used Sanskrit as a court language, and even issued Indian-style coins.  It maintained close ties to India and while also having economic and political relations with Tibet, thus becoming a cultural center linking central and southern Asia.