The present gilt-bronze figure of a Buddha is remarkable for its impressively large size. It is an exceptional example of its type, exhibiting superb casting and fine attention to detail, especially the elaborate crown, the incised floral design on the edges of the garments and the dharmachakra, symbol of the Wheel of the Buddhist Law on the soles of the feet.
The current figure belongs to a small known group of Buddhist images of the mid-Ming period that combined both Chinese and Tibetan elements. It is interesting to note the stylistic depiction of the full, rounded face with the unusual hand gesture which appear to be an amalgamation of styles that is unique for Chinese Buddhist image-makers of the Ming period, and it would strongly suggest that this massive figure to be a special commission.
A similar large ungilt seated Maitreya Buddha, also wearing a crown, is illustrated in The Crucible of Compassion and Wisdom, Special Exhibition Catalog of the Buddhist Bronzes from the Nitta Group Collection at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1987, p. 214, pl. 117, measuring 75.6 cm. high. Two other comparable examples are known, the first is a gilt-bronze figure of Vairocana in the Royal Ontario Museum (no. 921.31.30), and the other was sold at Christie’s New York, 15 September 2011, lot 1383. Both these cited examples are cast with the hands in abhiseka mudra, palm against palm, commonly seen in Chinese representations of the Vairocana. A gesture from esoteric Buddhism, abhiseka mudra represents anointing and initiating of novices into the Buddhist community. For the present figure, it is interesting to note the hand gesture is detailed with the curled middle fingers turned close to the palm but none of the fingers appear to touch other finger tips, making this seated figure exceptionally rare within the Buddhist pantheon.