This stone image of Shakyamuni Buddha with scenes from his life typifies the use of multiple prototypes in Myanmarese sculpture in the 11th and 12th centuries. The central image shows the Buddha seated in the lotus posture (padmasana) with his right hand in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparshamudra). Sometimes known as andagu plaques after the Myanmarese name for the pyrophyllite stone used in their manufacture,works such as this were once attributed to northeastern India, but most scholars now classify them as Myanmarese. It should be pointed out, however, that several questions remain unanswered regarding the use of pyrophyllite. Since it was also used for inkstones in China during the 11th and 12th centuries, some have speculated that the stone was quarried in Yunnan Province in southwest China and carved elsewhere. Sculptures carved in pyrophyllite are found primarily in the art of Pala-period India (c. 745-c. 1200). At present both the source for the stone and the location (or locations) where such stone would have been carved remain uncertain.
The central image of this work represents the defeat of Mara and the forces of illusion by the founder of Buddhism prior to his enlightenment. Shakyamuni sits on a lotus pedestal that rises from a two-tiered base filled with small images of animals and people. Two serpent-headed nagas crouch to either side of the central lotus stalk, from which spring all of the small lotus pedestals depicted. The outermost figures represent the Eight Great Events of Shakyamuni's life. These are, clockwise from the lower left, his birth, the first sermon, the taming of the elephant Nalagir