BritishMuseum

48 images taken in the British Museum while training a London group in photographic technique.
The images concentrate on Roman, Asian, Egyptian, Polynesian and Native American sculpture.

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Great Court British Museum 0855

The tessellated glass roof of the Great Court in the central quadrangle of the British Museum. This is
the largest covered square in Europe, with over 3300 unique computer-cut glass panes in an undulating
design rising and extending out to the museum wings from the roof of the central Reading Room (at right).

The central courtyard was a garden when the museum first opened in the mid-18th century, but in
the mid-19th century the Reading Room and the British Library were established in the space, which
was covered with three-story tall bookcases. When the British Library moved to its own building in 1997,
a project ensued to retrieve the lost two acre space. The 100 million project created two new galleries,
educational facilities, theaters, visitor facilities, a cafe and shops and increased public space by 40%.

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Nisga'a Totem Pole British Museum 0843 M

The Nisga’a Totem Pole was acquired in 1932 from the Nass River valley on the Northwest coast of British Columbia. It was carved in 1850-1860 by the legendary carver Oyai to honor the Nisga’a Chief Luuya’as. It represents the Geebelk (a bird with a human face), a Thunderbird, a spirit Beaver carrying its cub on its back, and the Man Underneath holding a whale.

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Nisga'a Eagle British Museum 0839

A Red Cedar Eagle carved by Nisga’a Chief Gadeelip for the ceremony when the Totem Pole was raised in the Wellcome Gallery in 2003. Totem poles are typically carved from Red Cedar. This totem pole is 26 feet tall (8 meters) and was held in storage for 70 years until Nisga’a carver Alvin Tait visited the museum and identified the totem pole in 2003.

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Haida Totemic Door Frame British Museum 0841 M

A Haida totemic cedar door frame, carved c. 1870, from Tanu village on Moresby Island, Haida Gwaii Archipelago in British Columbia. The split top held the ridge pole of the house. It has a spirit eagle on top of another unknown spirit animal.

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Tamberan House Post British Museum 0845

The upper section of an anthropomorphic Western Iatmul Tamberan House Post from Ambunti near the middle Sepik River, Papua, New Guinea. A Tamberan House is a meeting place where the village men discuss community business.

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Hoa Hakananai’a Moai British Museum 0835

Hoa Hakananai’a (lost, stolen or hidden friend) is an ancestor figure (Moai) from Orongo on Easter Island.

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Hoa Hakananai’a Moai British Museum 0837

This is one of the 14 Moai the Rapa Nui people carved from basalt in 1200 (most were carved from softer volcanic tuff).

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Hoa Hakananai’a Moai British Museum 0833 M

(Portrait images designated “M” are 1000 x 1600 or 1200 x 1600).

Hoa Hakananai’a, also translated as “Master Wave-Breaker”) is from
the sacred ceremonial center of Orongo on Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The
eye sockets were originally inlaid with red stone and coral. The 2.42 m. (7.9 ft.)
statue weighs about 4 tons. The rear is carved with a maro (a symbolic loincloth of
three bands) and a number of carvings which relate to the Rapa Nui Birdman Cult.
The statue was removed from Orongo in 1868 by the crew of the HMS Topaze.

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Bearded Man Cyprus 450 BC British Museum 1021

Close detail of the head of a colossal limestone statue of a bearded priest from the Sanctuary of Apollo at Idalion (Dhali), Amyklos-Rashef Mikal, Cyprus. Carved between 450-425 BC during the Cypro-Classical I period, the fragmentary statue is wearing a pleated tunic, a cloak over the left shoulder and a laurel wreath with a band of decorated flowers. The beard has five rows of snail curls broken by a mustache carved with incised lines, and the lower part of the beard is zig-zag curls.

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Caracalla British Museum 1033 M

This Tivoli-type marble bust of Emperor Caracalla was the second portrait created for Caracalla as sole ruler of Rome in 215-217 AD. The Tivoli-type was only to be used in Italy. This bust from the Townley Collection was excavated in the garden of the nuns at Quattro Fontane in Rome in 1776. A different sort of bust of Caracalla is in this image of an 18th century copy of the 212-215 AD Farnese-type bust which was carved by Bartolommeo Cavaceppi, taken at the Getty Museum.

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Enlightenment Gallery, King’s Library

Objects that illustrate how people looked at the world during the Age of Enlightenment (17th-18th c).
King George IV donated his father King George III’s library of over 60,000 books to the nation in 1823.
The collection was too large for the existing museum, so the current quadrangle building was constructed
with a dedicated room for the library. The oldest room in the museum, it houses the Enlightenment Gallery.

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Piranesi Vase British Museum 0859

The Piranesi Vase (or Boyd Vase) is a marble crater on three legs and a triangular base with relief decorations of satyrs, by Giovanni Battista Piranesi in the 1770s. Piranesi created this vase using ancient fragments found at the Panatello, a site at Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli near Rome in 1769.

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Piranesi Vase British Museum 0862 M

The ancient fragments were restored and incorporated into a pastiche, including the bull’s heads, sections of the lion’s legs, and parts of the reliefs of satyrs picking grapes. Much of the rest of the composition was created entirely by Piranesi from ancient fragments and modern parts.

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Apollo British Museum 0864

Originally a 2nd century Roman statue of Dionysus (Bacchus), this over-life-sized statue from the Farnese Palace in Rome was restored as Apollo by Carlo Albacini in the 1780s.

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Apollo British Museum 0866

The right arm on the head was a favored representation by Albacini. The arms, head, bow, left leg and the attributes were all modern additions to the ancient statue to create Apollo.

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Discophorus British Museum 0868

The Discophorus (discus bearer), Roman c. 160 AD with the head restored
based upon another version in the Vatican Museum. This is a Roman copy of
a lost original (430-400 BC) assigned to the Greek sculptor Naukydes of Argos.
This sculpture, similar to the one in the Louvre, was found at Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli.

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Sir Hans Sloane British Museum 0872

This terracotta portrait bust of Sir Hans Sloane (c. 1737) is one of John Michael Rijsbrack’s masterpieces. The subject is portrayed in an elaborate wig and a lace collar over a jacket. The superb surfacing of this bust is rare in Rijsbrack’s work.

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Sir Hans Sloane British Museum 0876

Sir Hans Sloane was physician to Queen Anne, King George I and II, and President of the Royal College of Physicians. A noted collector, he had his own museum, and bequeathed his collection prompting the founding of the British Museum.

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Faun with Infant Bacchus British Museum 0902

Faun or Satyr with infant Bacchus or Dionysus, 2nd c. Roman.

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Cupid British Museum 0889

Cupid or Eros stringing his Bow, 2nd c. Roman.

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Apulian Krater British Museum 0878 M

Colossal Volute Krater in the style of the Baltimore Painter, Apulian Greek, 330-310 BC.
The handles have Gorgon heads on the upper termination, on the lower are swans heads.
On the right handle is a painting of a winged female figure, facing the vase holding a plant.
Around the lip is an egg-moulding design, and below the lip are black and white palmettes.
Below the palmettes are meanders in perspective with palmettes on stalks in the squares.

On the neck are scenes of Greek warriors engaged in close battle with Amazon warriors.
On the shoulder below are palmettes and lotus flowers alternating, with egg-moulding below.

Below the shoulder on the body of the krater, between large palmettes on each side are:
Athena on the left, seated, with a white shield, handing a helmet with crest to Apollo, who is
also seated and playing a lyre fastened by a band to his wrist. To Apollo’s right is the seated
figure of Artemis, wearing a Phrygian cap and a chiton reaching to her knees, holding a spear.
At her feet is a hound, fawning on Ganymede, who is leaning on a stump with right hand extended.
Next is Zeus seated on a throne looking at Ganymede, holding a scepter with a four pointed star.
Right of Zeus is Hera, standing with bracelets, a necklace and crown, holding a lotus scepter.
On the extreme right of the upper body is Hermes, standing, with caduceus in his right hand.
This group of Greek deities is most likely watching the scene which is playing out below.

On the lower body, from left: Sacrifice by two heroes (probably Oinomaos and Pelops).
On the left is Heracles, as founder of the Olympic Games, seated nude on his lion skin,
with sword slung, a club in hand, looking at a tree stump with a displaying dove on top.
To his right is a crowned female deity, perhaps Aphrodite, holding a four-armed torch.
To her right is Pelops, standing to the left of a statue of Zeus, wearing a white helmet,
a chlamys fastened with fistula, holding a slender water pitcher and an offering bowl.
To the right of the statue of Zeus is Oinomaos, bearded, wearing a white helmet and
cuirass, holding a spear in his left hand and phiale (slender water pitcher) in his right.
On the right is a youthful hero, possibly Myrtilos, seated with a spear in his left hand,
a white cuirass in his right, and a sword slunk at his hip. To his right is a tree stump
with a dove about to land on the stump. Meanders repeat on the base of the krater.

This is an absolutely superbly detailed ancient Greek volute krater.

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Sekhmet British Museum 0881

An 18th Dynasty seated statue of Sekhmet, wearing a deep wig, collar, bracelets and anklets (c. 1350 BC, Thebes).

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Sekhmet British Museum 0883

 The statue is made of Granodiorite and is 7.75 feet tall. The 22nd Dynasty inscriptions give the name of Sheshonq I.

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Ptolemy I Soter British Museum 0906 M

A fragmentary black basalt Egyptian-style statue of Ptolemy I, who ruled as Ptolemy Soter (Savior) with his wife Berenice between 305-283 BC. The mouth has drill holes at the corners creating a wide smile. The wide nose, cheeks and chin are in the 30th Dynasty and Ptolemaic style, but the eyebrows and ears are more naturalistic than Late Period sculptures. It was rumored that this statue was found in a well in the Nile Delta.

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Ptolemy I Soter British Museum 0909

Ptolemy I Soter was a Macedonian general under Alexander the Great, and one of his bodyguard. Upon Alexander’s death, the most powerful of Alexander’s generals split up his empire at the Partition of Babylon, and Ptolemy was made the Satrap of Egypt, Libya and Arabia in 323 BC. He declared himself Pharaoh in 305 BC and founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty.

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Ptolemy I Soter British Museum 0918

Ptolemy I created a powerful Hellenistic kingdom that extended from Syria to Libya,
and from Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast south to Nubia (Northern Sudan). He
founded the Museum and Library at Alexandria, a research center and scroll repository
that attracted scholars from all over the Mediterranean and became the greatest library
of the ancient world. The Library attempted to collect all of the world’s knowledge, and
sent scholars to the book fairs of Rhodes and Athens as well as collecting all scrolls
from ships that entered Alexandria to copy on papyrus, keeping the originals and
returning the copies to their owners. He made Alexandria an international trade
hub, the leading producer of papyrus, and the primary producer of books. His
Ptolemaic Dynasty lasted 300 years, ending with the death of Cleopatra VII
in 30 BC (the Cleopatra associated with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony).

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Gayer-Anderson Cat British Museum 1019 M

The Gayer-Anderson Cat, named for Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson who donated
it to the museum. Found in Saqqara, Egypt (Memphis), the Gayer-Anderson Cat is a seated
bronze statue representing the goddess Bastet, created using the Lost-Wax casting method
in the Late Period (664-332 BC). The cat has inlaid silver jewelry consisting of a wedjat-eye
amulet with a sun-disc below, and golden earrings and nose-ring. Three layers of lines are
 incised around the neck, and a winged scarab is incised in the chest below the sun-disc.
There is also a raised scarab beetle (associated with the god Kephri) on the forehead.
 There were originally stone or glass eyes in the eye sockets. The cat was extensively
restored by Gayer-Anderson before he donated it to the museum in the 1939. A
large crack extends all the way around the body, and a metal cylinder was put
inside the statue to keep the head from falling off. He also removed corrosion
and probably put on a thick layer of green paint to help disguise the repairs.
The Gayer-Anderson Cat is one of the best known of all Egyptian bronzes.

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Asclepius British Museum 0893

A marble statue of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing,
leaning on the Rod of Asclepius (a snake-entwined staff) that remains
a symbol of medicine to this day. The headless fragment at lower right
is a representation of Telesphoros, the son of Asclepius, a demi-god
who symbolized recovery from illness or injury. Roman, 2nd century.

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Demeter on Roman Altar British Museum 0929

Roman 2nd century Parian marble statue of Demeter (Ceres) with a torch held at her left side, found near Athens. The 90 cm statue is standing on an ornate Roman funerary altar found in a vineyard outside the Porta Appia in Rome.

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Ganymede with Eagle of Zeus British Museum 0926

Roman 2nd century marble statue of Ganymede wearing a Phrygian cap and chalmys, leaning against a tree stump and looking at the Eagle of Zeus. The 88 cm statue stands on a 1st century Roman funerary altar.

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Chinese Gilded Plaque British Museum 0965

A highly-detailed Chinese gilded high-relief wall plaque, mounted high on the wall above a door.
I was unable to find any information on this exquisitely detailed frieze of what seems to be street life.

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Budai Luohan Daoist Deity British Museum 0942

Polychrome 9th to 15th century glazed stoneware figures
of a Daoist Deity, a Luohan (Arhat), and Budai Hesheng.
Detailed information on each figure is presented below.

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Daoist Deity British Museum 0946

The seated figure of a Daoist deity holding a black pearl in his right hand, Ming Dynasty (1488-1644), of polychrome glazed porcelain from Shanxi Province, China. He is depicted as an old man with a long beard, his hair is scraped into a bun and secured with a crown. He wears a brown inner robe and a turquoise outer robe with biscuit-fired medallions showing the three peaked mountains of the Immortals on his shoulders and above the knees. The face and hands are also biscuit-fired.

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Budai Hesheng British Museum 0940

One of the most popular items in the Chinese Collection, this Ming Dynasty (dated 1486) polychrome stoneware figure of Budai Hesheng from Henan Province is in the 3-color palette of the Tang Dynasty. The “Laughing Buddha” is depicted as a fat, smiling bald man dressed in the loose amber robes of a mendicant monk, and holds a green-glazed cloth bag in his right hand. Budai is considered to be both an incarnation of Maitreya (Buddha of the Future) and as a Luohan (see below).

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Daoist Deity Luohan British Museum 0947

On the left, the seated Daoist deity who is holding a black pearl in his right hand.
This is likely a representation of Yuan Shi Tian Zun (Primal Celestial Excellency),
one of the San Qing (Three Pure Ones), and is also known as Tai Gong Lao Tzu,
(Highest Artisan Old Grandfather). Polychrome enamel with biscuit-fired areas.

On the right, a life-size seated figure of a Luohan (Arhat) made of lead-glazed stoneware,
Liao dynasty (907-1125), found in the Yizhou caves west of Yi Xian, China in the early 20th c.
This was one of seven found together, part of a celebrated group of 16-18 found in the caves.
It is glazed in the 3-color palette of the Tang dynasty and exhibits somber dignity and power.

Luohan were disciples of Buddha with magical powers who could stay alive indefinitely
to preserve the teachings of Buddha. The stern but serene face gives the impression
that all humanity might aspire to the spiritual understanding attained by the Luohan.

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Judge’s Assistant Evil Deeds British Museum 0952 M

15th c. Ming Dynasty polychrome enameled glazed stoneware sculpture of an Assistant to the Judges of Hell, with a green face frowning in anger, green hands, large staring eyes and cold-painted red lips. Made in Shanxi Province, China.

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Judge’s Assistant Evil Deeds British Museum 0955 M

The Assistant is dressed in the robes of a scholar-mandarin, aubergine-colored, and carries a large register of scrolls that describe Evil Deeds of the defendant. The assistant presents the evidence to the Ten Judges of Buddhist Hell.

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Judge’s Assistant Good Deeds British Museum 0959 M

15th c. Ming Dynasty polychrome enameled glazed stoneware sculpture of an Assistant to the Judges of Hell, in the form of a standing woman holding a slender volume labeled ‘Shan Bu’, or “Good Register”. Made in Shanxi Province, China.

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Judge’s Assistant Good Deeds British Museum 0960 M

Dressed in loose-fitting multicolored robes, her hair dressed into twin buns, she wears gold earrings, hair ornaments and a Phoenix tiara. The Good Deeds will be used to try to offset the defendant’s Evil Deeds in front of the Ten Judges of Hell.

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Mandalay Offering Vessel British Museum 0975 M

One of a pair of ‘Hsun ok’ (offering vessels) made in Mandalay, Burma in the 1880s.
The decoration is a ‘tour de force’ of the ‘Hmanzi shwe cha’ style, in which relief modeling is
built up on the lacquered surface of the underlying coiled basketry. The majority of decorations
are of a floral and abstract design, but prancing animals (probably mythical lions) made of ‘Thayo’
lacquer putty can be seen chasing through the scrollwork in the bands around the belly on both
sides of the opening. The spired lid of the vessel is reminiscent of the Burmese pagoda,
and bears a ‘Hintha’ or Hamsa bird (an aquatic bird, possibly a bar-headed goose).

The Hintha or Hamsa bird represents perfect union, balance and life, and
is a royal bird associated with Brahman, the Supreme Spirit in Hinduism.

The interior of the Offering Vessels are made of basketry, and the bamboo
including the single surviving tray is decorated with a brilliant red lacquer finish.
Made of bamboo, lacquer, colored glass, gold leaf, gilded metal sheet and wood.
The intricacy and depth of the design reveals the sure hand of a practiced artist.
The use of gilding all over the surface indicates that it was made for royal use.
“In the days of the kings, sumptuary laws decreed that objects with
gilded decoration were reserved for religious and royal use.”

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Tara Bodhisattva British Museum 0987

Tara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and both the consort of and the female aspect of Avalokitesvara, also Bodhisattva of Compassion. From the 8th c. (700-750) Anuradhapura culture of Sri Lanka, it was solid cast of bronze using the lost wax method and gilded. The eyes were probably set with precious stones, as were the flame-like settings in the medallion.

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Tara Bodhisattva British Museum 0979

The standing figure of the female Buddhist deity is naked to the waist, with a lower garment flowing to her ankles. The right hand is in the position of varadamudra (gesture of giving) and the left hand is empty, but may have once held a lotus flower. The hair is in a high tubular coiffure (jatamukuta) held in place by a medallion flanked by makaras (water creatures).

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Tara Bodhisattva British Museum 0986 M

The cavity in the center of the coiffure medallion probably once contained a small seated
image of Amitabha Buddha, considered to be the parent Buddha of Tara and Avalokitesvara.
This image was for a long time identified as the local goddess Pattini, whose cult is popular
in Sri Lanka, however, the identification as Tara is now accepted. The two middle fingers
of the right hand are missing, as are toes on both feet. Found near Trincomalee in 1830.

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Amitabha Buddha British Museum 0995 M

A 19 foot (5.78 m) white marble figure of Amitabha Buddha, the Celestial Buddha of Infinite Light. The hands are now lost, but they were originally held in with wooden dowels in iron brackets, displaying the abhaya and varada mudras (which signify benevolence and compassion). A high relief sculpture with drapery in extremely flat folds typical of the Sui Dynasty, the sculpture is dated 585 and was found at Chonghuang Temple, Hancui Village (now disappeared). Amitabha is the Buddha who rules over the Western Paradise. The renowned giant figure of the Kamakura Daibutsu is a seated Amitabha.

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Avalokitesvara British Museum 0990 M

A close portrait of Avalokitesvara, the male aspect of Tara, in a polychromed wood sculpture from the Song or Jin Dynasty in Shanxi China, 11th-12th century. The naturalistic statue with glassy, reflective eyes is seated in rājalīlāsana, a variant form of the Posture of Royal Ease.

Guanyin, as Avalokitesvara is known in China, would have been a widely revered image in a Buddhist Temple as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, said to have powers to rescue believers. The 1.7 m. sculpture was found in Shanxi, China.

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Buddha with Devotee British Museum 0998

A 9th century Pala period standing figure of the Buddha carved in dark gray sandstone, found in Kurkihar, India, 1848.

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Buddha with Devotee British Museum 0999

The Buddha displays Varada mudra, and a devotee kneels at his feet. Sanskrit is inscribed in the halo and on the base.

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Crowned Buddha British Museum 1003 M

A large standing figure of the crowned Buddha, surrounded by eight scenes of his life, carved in blackened gray schist. Carved in the 11th-12th century, the Crowned Buddha was found in a cemetery in Bodh Gaya, Mitra, India in 1878.

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Crowned Buddha British Museum 1009 M

This stone relief of the Crowned Buddha is a representation of Buddha as a Universal Sovereign. Bodh Gaya is the location of the Buddha’s Enlightenment. He wears a crown, earrings and a necklace, his right hand displaying the Varada mudra.

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