The Pala dynasty, which flourished from the 8th-12th century in northeastern India, was one of the last strongholds of Buddhism, as the country became increasingly Hindu by the 11th century. As Buddhism continued to flourish under the Pala rulers, there was a surge in travel among Buddhist practitioners and laypeople to sacred sites associated with Buddha Shakyamuni. With this came the expanded propagation of Buddhist texts and religious icons, which were easily transported by pilgrims. Bronze sculpture which were especially portable, played a crucial role in the propagation of Buddhist iconography throughout the region. As a result, Pala bronze work achieved an exceptional level of sophistication and to this day, is revered as one of the golden eras of the Indian sculptural tradition.
This sublime figure of Maitreya, the Future Buddha, is emblematic of the artistic mastery of Pala period bronze work. Rendered with jewel-like sensitivity, the god sits languidly atop a throne of lush lotus petals. The body is modeled with exceptional naturalism and sensuality. From the fleshy toes, to the slightly bulging belly and exaggerated curve of the torso and shoulders, every detail is rendered with a softness rarely captured in metal. The abundance of shimmering silver and copper inlay suggest this sculpture was an object of particularly special veneration. Compare with another Pala period bronze image of Maitreya in the British Museum, London (U. von Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, 1981, p.282-283. cat no.69D).