This figure is superbly realized, with the delicate uttarasangha draped over both shoulders and ending in a curved hem at mid-calf. Below this, a second hem of the dhoti is visible at the ankles, and the artist has expertly carved where it nips into the soft flesh of the waist. Though only one hand partially remains, it is likely both hands were raised in vitarkamudra, a double teaching gesture popular in Dvaravati and unique to sculpture of the region. The entire figure is described within a frame formed by the arms and robes, a metaphor for the restrained sensuality with which early Dvaravati works are carved. The graceful forms evolve out of Gupta prototypes, Sarnath in particular, in which the sensual curves of the earlier period are elongated into subtle contours, as in the present work.
The same restraint in depicting the corporeal forms is employed in the decorative aspects of the sculpture, such that the overlapping hems at the bottom left are barely suggested. This absence of surface decoration avoids distracting the viewer’s eye from fully appreciating the modeling of the body beneath the drapery.
This magnificent sculpture graced the dining room where Mr. Ellsworth entertained his guests, juxtaposed against Chinese furniture and another figure of Buddha from the Gandharan period (see lot 30). Together, these works would have undoubtedly drawn discussion regarding the depictions of the Buddha and transmission of his teachings, from India to West Asia along the Silk Route, and throughout Southeast Asia along maritime trade routes.