The Buddha at Birth


Historical period(s)
Asuka period, 7th century
Gilt bronze
H x Diam (overall): 11.7 x 5.2 cm (4 5/8 x 2 1/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto in honor of Yanagi Takashi
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 06a: The Beginnings of Buddhism in Japan
Metalwork, Sculpture

Buddhist sculpture

Asuka period (552 - 710), birth, Buddha, Buddhism, casting, gilding, Japan, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Sylvan Barnet 1926 - 2015
William Burto 1921-2013


Buddhist sacred texts (sutras) record the miraculous acts of the Historical Buddha soon after his birth. The infant took seven steps and pointed to heaven and earth, declaring himself to be the lord of the cosmos and savior of all sentient beings- an event depicted by this miniature sculpture cast in bronze. It is a rare example of a gilt-bronze image produced in Buddhism’s earliest phase in Japan, after its introduction from Korea in 538. This figure, standing on a base that was replaced later, closely resembles an image designated as an Important Cultural Property in the Shogenji, a Buddhist temple in Aichi Prefecture, Japan. The style reflects the refined work of the Tori school of professional Buddhist sculptors who produced a bronze image of the Historical Buddha and two attendant bodhisattvas (enlightened beings), dated 623, for the Horyuji in Nara.

Published References
  • Miyeko Murase Mr. Sylvan Barnet. The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Painting from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection. Exh. cat. New York, New Haven and London. pp. 68-71.
  • Uehara Shoichi. Futatsu no tanjobutsu (Two Images of Buddha at Birth). no. 22, March 1971. pp. 95-97.
  • Washizuka Hiromitsu. Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan. Exh. cat. New York. cat. 25, pp. 240-41.
  • pp. 48-49.
  • p. 143, fig. 15.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum