August 27, 2009

Images of the Buddha through 2 millennia

buddhist sculpture, victoria and albert museum

It wasn't until several centuries after he'd come and gone that  representations of the Buddha appeared. Until then, the the Awakened One was represented by his absence—footprints, an umbrella shading an empty throne. Once his image appeared, however, an art form flourished for nearly two millennia and continues to this day.

At the new Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery of Buddhist Sculpture at London's Victoria and Albert Museum, "47 masterworks, culled from the museum's renowned Asian collections, trace the Buddha's portrayal from the 2nd to 19th centuries, in places as diverse as India, Java and Japan," we read at

If you can't make it to London, you can see several of the images at the museum's website. For a nice review by British artist Antony Gormley in the Financial Times, click here. (Gormley's artwork appeared in the the Fall 2002 issue of Tricycle in a special section called "The Body: Vehicle for Awakening.")

[Image: The Buddha competes in an Archery Contest. Java, 700-800 AD. Museum no. IM 172-1926. Victoria & Albert Museum, London]

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