Shakyamuni (or possibly Akshobhya) Buddha

Historical period(s)
11th-12th century
Copper alloy with traces of possible former inlays
H x W x D: 21.7 × 14 × 9 cm (8 9/16 × 5 1/2 × 3 9/16 in)
Western Tibet, Guge
Credit Line
The Alice S. Kandell Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 26a: The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room
Metalwork, Sculpture


Akshobhya Buddha, Alice S. Kandell Collection, Buddhism, Shakyamuni Buddha, Tibet
Provenance research underway.

Metal images from western Tibet in the eleventh and twelfth-century are often freely inventive, as seen here in the Buddha’s elevated seated posture, atypically square head, and the playful swoop of the garment’s left sleeve.

The earth-touching gesture, in which the right hand reaches down to call the earth to witness the Buddha’s moment of enlightenment, identifies both the historical Buddha (Shakyamuni) and the cosmic Buddha Akshobhya, this sculpture more likely represents Akshobhya because the downward tilt of the left hand suggests that it was made to hold an upright thunderbolt scepter rather than the begging bowl that is characteristic of Shakyamuni.

Akshobyha (Sanskrti, Immovable or Unshakable) is unshakably present in the eastern heaven Abhirati to teach all its beings. In Abhirati (Sanskrit, Intense Delight), gods and humans easily visit each other’s realms by traversing ladders that connect heaven and earth.

Published References
  • Marylin M. Rhie, Robert A.F. Thurman. A Shrine for Tibet: The Alice S. Kandell Collection. New York and London. I-6, 62.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
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