Seated in the regal posture of rajalilasana, with swaying torso and head inclined, the superbly cast face illuminated with silver eyes, silver urna and copper lips in a subtle smile, a diadem framing the forehead and elegantly secured by a band with cascading ribbon behind the head, the hair drawn up into a knotted jatamukata and topped by a cintamani jewel, with tresses falling to the bare shoulders, the right arm resting at the elbow on the raised right knee in front of a large lotus flower, the right hand bent at the wrist and draped over a meditation belt of silver and copper secured around the right knee, the left arm extended behind the left knee grasping a lotus root. Wearing elaborate silver and copper bodhisattva jewelry, including large circular earrings, bracelets and armbands, necklaces, a gold ring on the right ring finger, anklets and foot adornments, the diaphanous dhoti gathered at the waist with a festooned girdle which falls delicately under the right foot and over the double foliate lotus throne, also inlaid with silver and copper, encircling the base enclosed by a band of pearls above and wave pattern below.
Manjushri, the bodhisattva of discriminating wisdom, is one of the most iconic deities in the pantheon of Mahayana Buddhism. His penetrating insight – often symbolized as a flaming sword held aloft in his right hand – cuts through dualistic fixation by means of prajña, or transcendent knowledge. He is thus identified by his association with the Prajñaparamitasutra, the seminal text of early Buddhism distinguishing the sixfold path which cultivates prajña: generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, meditation and wisdom.
This complex and delicately modeled sculpture is an excellent example of the refinement of Pala figuration. Executed during the height of Bengal's Golden Age, this masterpiece demonstrates the elegance and artistic innovation for which art from the Pala period is renowned: the relaxed plasticity of form; the slender physiognomy and elaborate jewelry; the highly stylized floral and vegetative motifs; the extensive use of precious metal inlay.
For further discussion of similar work, see N. Ray, K. Khandalavala and S. Gorakshekar, Eastern Indian Bronzes, Delhi, 1986, pp 58-65.
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