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On display on Level 1

Burmese people Buddha calling the Earth to witness 19th century Place made: Burma (Myanmar)
Creation Notes: Mandalay period (1752-1885)
Materials & Technique: sculptures, wood, lacquer, gold leaf and coloured glass wood, lacquer, gold leaf, coloured glass
Dimensions: 120.0 h cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1977
Accession No: NGA 77.805
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is currently being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • with antique dealership Peng Seng, Bangkok, 1977 or before
  • which sold it to the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1977 for USD 5,500

With his right hand pointing downwards, the historical Buddha is here shown in the gesture of ‘calling the Earth to witness’ [bhumisparsha mudra]. The gesture alludes to the moment in Buddhist narrative when, on the eve of his enlightenment, Prince Gautama (the future Buddha Shakyamuni) was tempted in various ways by Mara, the god of desire and death. In response, the prince extended his hand to touch the Earth, from which the earth goddess rose up and, wringing water from her long hair, washed away Mara and his threatening armies. After renouncing the princely life and becoming an ascetic, the Buddha shared his philosophies with a growing number of followers.

Burmese Buddhist sculpture of the 18th and 19th centuries was splendidly ornate, with gilded red or black lacquered surfaces studded with slivers of coloured glass.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label