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 the conventions established at Sarnath. He has the classic oval face, almond-shaped eyes, broad nose, and full lips typical of Sarnath-school representations. 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.
Subtle differences distinguish this Buddha from earlier prototypes: his shoulders are marginally broader in proportion to the overall physique, his facial features slightly blunter, and the center of his hairline is more pointed. Moreover, his posture is slightly more rigid than that of Sarnath-type Buddhas. This rigidity, the fuller thighs, and the greater attention paid to the edges of his dhoti and shawl help date this image to the 6th century. Similar characteristics are found on stone sculptures produced in the areas around Bodhgaya in Bihar Province to the east of Uttar Pradesh, and it is possible that this powerful bronze sculpture is an early example of the Buddhist art of that region.