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The monk Shariputra, chief disciple of the Buddha
approx. 1850–1925
Lacquered and gilded wood with colored glass
The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S599

In Burma and Siam the Buddha was sometimes shown flanked by two of his chief disciples. (Siamese examples can be seen in paintings in the last section of this exhibition, in Osher Gallery). When depicted as freestanding sculptures, these monks in the Burmese tradition of the 1800s were differentiated by their body positions. Both faced the Buddha (as this one does here), sitting respectfully with their legs to one side. Shariputra, the disciple shown here, was placed on the Buddha’s right and leaned forward as if listening attentively; the other chief disciple, on the Buddha’s left, held his hands together in reverence.

These disciples, though they were contemporaries of the historical Buddha and legendary for their piety and power, may have seemed to sculptors more approachable than the Buddha and the celestial deities. Sometimes, as here, the sculptor imparts a sense of youthful tenderness.

Sculptures such as this are difficult to date with precision, as they have continued to be made.

all text & images © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

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