This is a sculpture of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. He was the founder of Buddhism and lived in northern India over two and a half thousand years ago.
The sculpture is about two hundred years old and has been made using the dry-lacquer technique. This technique involves building up layers of lacquer (tree sap) with pieces of fabric to form a hollow structure. The sculpture was finally covered in gilt paint.
The Buddha is sat in the lotus position (cross legged) with his left hand in a meditation mudra (pose) called dhyama and his right hand touching the ground which is called the bhumisparsha mudra. Gautama touched the ground like this as he sat under the pipal tree to call the Earth goddess to witness his unwavering faith.
When the Buddha arrived in the UK in 1847 it was reported to be the biggest of its kind in the country. The Manchester Natural History Society purchased it from Edward Higgins of Calcutta but then sold it at an auction in 1868 where it was bought by Salford Museum. Salford Museum eventually transferred it to the Manchester Museum in 1989.
As you can see from the image taken today, the Buddha is currently at home in the Museum conservation laboratory. He was removed from display several months ago during the installation of the Manchester Gallery. However by the end of November he will be placed back on display in the newly refurbished reception area.
Stephen Terence Welsh
Curator of Living Cultures