Torso of a Standing Buddha

Historical period(s)
Gupta dynasty, 5th century
Red sandstone
H x W: 32.5 x 15.5 cm (12 13/16 x 6 1/8 in)
India, Mathura
Credit Line
Transfer from the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone

Figure: Buddha (fragment)

Buddha, Buddhism, Gupta dynasty (300 - 699), India

From 1940 to 1946
C. T. Loo & Co., New York, from November 1940 [1]

From 1946 to 1951
Eduard von der Heydt (1882-1964), Ascona, Switzerland, purchased from C. T. Loo in April 1946 and lent to the Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York [2]

US Government vested Eduard von der Heydt's property under the provisions of "Trading with the Enemy Act" by vesting order, dated August 21, 1951 [3]

From 1964 to 1973
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, from March 1964 [4]

From 1973
Freer Gallery of Art, transferred from National Museum of Natural History in 1973 [5]


[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. NYJ-1: "Small torso of a Buddha in red sand stone from Matura, first Century A. D.," Frank Caro Archive, New York University, copy in object file. According to the stockcard, Loo purchased the sculpture in November 1940 in India. According to J. E. van Lohuzien-de Leeuw, the sculpture was acquired by Loo probably through Gabriel Jouveau-Dubreuil (1885-1945), Pondicherry, see J. E. van Lohuzien-de Leeuw, Indische Skulpturen der Sammlung Eduard von der Heydt/Indian Sculptures in the von der Heydt Collection (Zurich: Atlantis Verlag, 1964), p. 42. In 1942 Loo exhibited the sculpture in his New York gallery, see C. T. Loo & Co., An Exhibition of the Sculpture of Greater India: A Fully Illustrated Catalogue, exh. cat. (New York: C. T. Loo & Co., 1942), cat. 28 (ill.).

[2] See C. T. Loo's stockcard cited in note 1. See also "Catalogue of the Von der Heydt Loan to the Buffalo Museum of Science: Loan Material from Baron Von der Heydt, as of March 1949," where the sculpture is documented under an inventory card no. 4648.3, copy in object file. According to information on the inventory card, Eduard von der Heydt purchased the sculpture from C. T. Loo in April 1946.

[3] See Vesting Order No. 18344, August 21, 1951, Office of Alien Property, Department of Justice. Eduard von der Heydt exhausted all the legal remedies against the forfeiture of his property provided to him by the Trading with the Enemy Act.

[4] Attorney General, Robert Kennedy authorized transfer of the von der Heydt collection from Buffalo Museum of Science to the custody of the Smithsonian Institution in March 1964. The collection was transferred to the National Museum of Natural History. In 1966 US Congress legislated transferring the title of the von der Heydt collection to the Smithsonian Institution, see Public Law 89-503, 80 Stat. 287, July 18, 1966. The sculpture was accessioned under no. 448111, see "Smithsonian Office of Anthropology Accession Data," copy in object file.

[5] The sculpture was among 13 objects in the von der Heydt collection transferred from National Museum of Natural History to the Freer Gallery of Art, see "Smithsonian Institution Intramural Transfer of Specimens" memorandum, dated January 29, 1973, copy in object file. The sculpture was accessioned to the Freer Gallery Study Collection under no. FSC-S-13 and subsequently transferred to the permanent collection in August 1976.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution
Baron Eduard von der Heydt 1882-1964


Located in central India, Mathura has had a long and illustrious history as a major religious center for Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. It is, understandably, one of the richest areas for archaeological discovery in all of India.

Although Mathura was an important political center unde the Kushan empire, the religious images created by its artisans were predominantly Indian in form, unlike those of other Kushan centers that were influenced by Hellenistic styles. The most imposing of all Buddhist sculpture created by Mathura artists are those dating from the Gupta period (320-600 A.D.). Carved from the characteristic reddish-brown sandstone of the region, these figures stand frontally, with broad shoulders and slightly attenuated proportions. Despite the fact that these figures are fully clothed in monastic robes, it was the representation of pliant flesh that interested the Mathura sculptors. Thus, the drapery folds are reduced to a pattern of raised threads that fall in concentric loops over the body, emphasizing its sensuality. As a contrast to the restrained modeling of the Buddha images, Mathura sculptures of the Gupta period frequently are fitted with large ornamentally carved, floral halos. A lifesize standing Buddha, now in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, represents the classic Mathura image of the Gupta period (Reproduced in Benjamin Rowland, The Art and Architecture of India (2nd ed.; Harmondsworth, England, 1956), pl. 80).

This small image of a standing Buddha in the Freer Gallery reflects the classic Mathura tradition on a modest scale. Although the figure has been damaged, its proportions and the reddish-brown sandstone are typical of the fifth century. The linear folds of the clinging garment are arranged symmetrically over the body. While both hands are missing, it is likely that the right hand displayed abhaya mudra ("fear-not" gesture), and the left hand held the hem of the outer garment.

Published References
  • (Introduction) Dr. John Alexander Pope. An Exhibition of the Sculpture of Greater India, a Fully Illustrated Catalogue. Exh. cat. New York. cat. 28.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 81, p. 107.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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