The city of Sarnath, located in Uttar Pradesh in north-central India, was one of the major centers for the production of sculpture during the Gupta period, and it is the style of sculpture produced in this city during the last quarter of the fifth century that best exemplifies the art of the imperial Gupta period. Sculptures from Sarnath are characterized by their graceful bodies, relaxed postures, downcast eyes, slight introspective smiles, clinging drapery, and refined details.
The Buddha illustrated here follows many of the conventions established at Sarnath, in particular, the body type and the treatment of his drapery as a series of folds that cling to and reveal his form. He stands in the abhanga posture, in which one leg is slightly bent to give a feeling of potential movement. His right hand is raised in the ritual gesture of reassurance (abhayamudra). He wears a monk's robe consisting of two large rectangular pieces of cloth, one of which is wrapped around his waist while the other is draped over his shoulders. The garments are almost transparent so as to emphasize the perfection of the Buddha's physical form. He grasps a piece of unattached cloth in his left hand; this cloth may reflect a misunderstanding of an earlier visual tradition in which the Buddha holds the end of his shawl in his left hand.
The stylization of the drapery folds and the attention given to the hemlines of the garments point to this sculpture's origins in eastern India. The slightly elongated proportions of the Buddha, his stiff pose, and thicker thighs are also typical of sculpture produced in Bihar and West Bengal. Further links to east India are seen in the treatment of the Buddha's features, in particular, his long, narrow nose, and the somewhat square shape of his face.