Early 15th century
Gilt bronze
28.5 cm (9 in)

Maitreya, also known as the Buddha of the Future, may be considered as a Bodhisattva according to the sutras, or a Buddha according to the tantras. In Tibet, when represented as a Bodhisattva, he may be depicted standing or, as here, seated in European style with the feet resting on a small lotus throne. This princely seated appearance of the figure is one of the most popular manifestations of Maitreya.

Maitreya is depicted here seated on a stepped pedestal, his feet resting on a semicircular lotus platform. This opulent throne features two lions and is decorated with a scrolling vine.

Held across his chest, the bodhisattva’s hands are in the position of dharmacakra mudra, a teaching gesture. Each of his hands holds the stems of flowers that rise above his shoulders. His princely garments, lavish jewels, and opulent crown are befitting a celestial bodhisattva. His hair has been arranged atop his head behind a striking tiered crown which has a stupa shaped finial. Ribbons attached to the elaborate headdress flutter gracefully on either side. Highlighted against the gilt sheen of the deity’s body, many of the ornaments have been tastefully inlaid with semi-precious gems and turquoise, a material favored by Tibetan artists.

His eyes remain heavily lowered in meditation. The divinity’s countenance beams with a gentle, engaging smile, bears the peaceful expression of one who has attained spiritual enlightenment.