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Seated crowned and bejeweled Buddha, or Maitreya
approx. 1825–1900
Paint, gold and lacquer on wood
Gift from Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection,

This figure would at first appear to be represent the Buddha crowned and bejeweled, like the central figure in no. 49. The is a difference, however: this figure does not wear monk’s robes beneath the royal attire. We may in fact be seeing Maitreya, the bodhisattva who will become the next Buddha.

The position and role of Maitreya in Southeast Asian Theravada belief and practice are complicated. Patrons of artworks often expressed in donation inscriptions their wish to be reborn when Maitreya comes to earth to complete his achievement of buddhahood. Kings sometimes implied that they were themselves Maitreya, using the association to suggest the inevitability of their success.

This object might be thought to be a painting in an elaborate frame, but in fact both the central part with the painted figure and the frame (except for its furthest projections at the sides) are made from a single wide plank.

all text & images © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

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