day in March, the main entrance to the Smith College Museum of Art was full of the
energetic noise of people bustling through various exhibition galleries, asking for
directions, waiting for friends, sitting on benches, making notes and sharing observations.
But upstairs on the third floor in an alcove off the
Chace Gallery, it was much quieter. A group of small children sat cross-legged on
the floor, eerily silent, mouths agape as they peered at the 9th-century sculpture
before them. While a museum docent talked about its origins, they studied the thousand-pound
stone Buddha seated cross-legged on a double lotus throne with a serene smile, eyes
closed in meditation and hands held in a symbolic pose known as dyana mudra.
The schoolchildren, like other recent visitors who
have sought out the ancient Buddha from Central Java, became quiet in its presence.
The sculpture, labeled “Seated Buddha Amitaba with Aureole” and made
of the volcanic stone andesite, was previously on display in the Southeast Asian
galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for seven years. Lent to
the Smith museum by an anonymous collector, the sculpture will remain on display
for the next three years.