This elegant sculpture depicts the moment when Buddha Shakyamuni achieves enlightenment. Having withstood the celestial king Mara’s temptations, the Buddha sits under the Bodhi tree in meditation as Mara’s armies make a final attempt at upstaging him. In his deep introspective state, Buddha touches the ground with a single finger and calls upon the earth to witness his enlightenment and ward off Mara’s armies.
Seated in dhyanasana on a double-lotus base, with his hands in bhumisparshamudra, the richly-gilt figure wears a diaphanous robe with a pearled hemline and finely detailed, coral-inlaid crown, a feature most common to the Malla period of Nepal. His square face with downturned, almond-shaped eyes flanking a silver-inlaid urna, a hooked nose, and bow-shaped lips recalls earlier Pala period prototypes. The figure may be compared to a 14th century crowned Buddha sold at Christie’s New York, 13 September 2016, lot 217; both works displaying the robust physique, particularly in the chest, shoulders and upper arms, that is characteristic of early Malla sculpture. Compare, also, the treatment of the flared ties of the crown in both works, which fall to the shoulders behind the pendulous, pierced earlobes.