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Seated Grace

One 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.

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