Seated Buddha

Historical period(s)
Angkor period, 12th century
H x W: 13.2 x 30 cm (5 3/16 x 11 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Sculpture

Buddhist sculpture

Angkor period (802 - 1431), Buddha, Buddhism, Cambodia, casting, dhyana mudra, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable

With a straight spine and wide shoulders, the Buddha sits in meditation on a lobed lotus pedestal, beneath the canopy of a separately cast Bodhi tree. A flat back plate surrounds him with radiating flames and naga finials. Rows of miniature Buddhas encircle the square base. The surface is covered with a lustrous green patina flecked with blue.

This sculpture was discovered along with six other Khmer bronze images that were excavated from a site in Vietnam in 1919. The group includes Buddhist and Hindu deities and ritual objects, all of which are small in scale. At less than a foot high, the Freer bronze is the largest. After a French forest ranger discovered them, the bronzes made their way into American museums in Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Detroit, Kansas City, and Washington, DC.

Little research has been done on the origins of the group--where the sculptures were made, how they were used, and why or how they traveled remains unknown. For centuries, portable bronze figures were instrumental in the spread of Indian traditions across Asia. The small stature of these bronzes suggests several possible purposes. Some of them may have been battle standards carried in royal or ritual processions, as relief carvings from temples in the Angkor area show such objects. The seemingly deliberate burial suggests that the group was a consecration deposit or sacred offering for a temple.

Published References
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. p. 11.
  • Sherman Lee. Ancient Cambodian Sculpture. no. 2, vol. 31 New York. p. 24, fig. 15.
  • Sherman Lee. A Cambodian Bronze Hoard. no. 2, vol. 31 New York, 1943. pp. 78-83, fig. 1.
  • George Coedes. Une Exposition de Sculptures Khmeres et Siamoises au Musee Cernushi. vol. 1, no. 3 Washington and Zurich. pp. 197-197, pl. 3.
  • Dr. Hiram Woodward. The Art and Architecture of Thailand: From Prehistoric Times Through the Thirteenth Century. Handbook of Oriental studies, 1st ed. Leiden and Boston. p. 210, fig. 70b.
  • Emma C. Bunker, Douglas Latchford. Khmer Bronzes: New Interpretations of the Past. Chicago. p. 510, fig. 6.1.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
F|S Southeast Asia
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