Detail View: The AMICA Library: Scenes of the Buddha's Life

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Southeast Asian; Burmese
Creator Name-CRT: 
Scenes of the Buddha's Life
Full view
Creation Date: 
11th-12th century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Pyrophyllite with gilding
Classification Term: 
Creation Place: 
H. 7 3/4 in. (19.7 cm); W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
The art of Myanmar remains the least studied among the traditions of Southeast Asia, in part owing to a lack of available material. The art of the Pagan period (849-1287), when Myanmar was a major political and economic force in Southeast Asia and an important center for the practice of Buddhism, remains the best known.

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

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 43.
Related Document Description: 
Brown, Robert L. 'Bodhgaya and South-East Asia.' Marg 40, no. 1, p. 74.
Related Document Description: 
Calza, Gian Carlo. 'Musei: L'Asia in casa.' Antiquariato 34 (January 1983), p. 49.
Related Document Description: 
Fisher, Robert E. Buddhist Art and Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1993, pp. 183-85.
Related Document Description: 
Huntington, Susan L. 'Pre Pala and Pala Period Sculptures in the Rockefeller Collection.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 378.
Related Document Description: 
Huntington, Susan L., and John C. Huntington. Leaves from the Bodhi Tree: The Art of Pala India (8th-12th Centuries) and Its International Legacy. Dayton and Seattle: Dayton Art Institute and University of Washington Press, 1990, pp. 217-20.
Related Document Description: 
Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd--Part II. New York: Asia Society, 1975, pp. 24, 25, 33.
Related Document Description: 
Leidy, Denise Patry. 'Iconography and Provenance: Buddhist Art from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection.' Orientations (March 1993), p. 54.
Related Document Description: 
Newman, Richard. The Stone Sculpture of India: A Study of the Materials Used by Indian Sculptors from ca. 2nd Century B.C. to the 16th Century. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Art Museums, Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 1984, pp. 17, 34-35, 68, 77, 84.
Related Document Description: 
Pal, Pratapaditya, et al. Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1984, pp. 62, 147, 162.
Related Document Description: 
Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Hong Kong and Singapore: Hong Kong Museum of Art and National Museum Singapore, 1993, pp. 106, 107.
Related Document Description: 
Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Tokyo: Idemitsu Museum of Arts, 1992, pp. 59, 128-29.
Related Document Description: 
Woodward, Hiram W., Jr. 'Burmese Sculpture and Indian Painting.' In Chhavi-2: Rai Krishnadasa Felicitation Volume. Varanasi: Bharat Kala Bhavan, 1981, p. 22, notes 16 and 17.
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