Easily confused with Askhobhya, who does the same hand gestures and often has a vajra sceptre placed before him, this is more likely Shakyamuni in his ‘crowned buddha’ form, holding a piece of his robe in his left hand and wearing a crown, earrings and a necklace – no bracelets, armbands or anklets. We have seen a similar image from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (UK) with the same type of lotus base but here the two rows of petals are not facing each other. (see below for comparison).
The Ashmolean buddha has no vajra sceptre before him.
Crowned buddhas may wear just a crown (i.e. no earrings or necklace).
When seated in his crowned-buddha form, Shakyamuni touches the ground with his right hand, calling the Earth goddess to witness his enlightenment. The other hand is held in the meditation gesture.
Both Shakyamuni and Vairochana may sit on a throne supported by lions (and a Yaksha at the centre, in this case). The position of the hands together with the (discreet) presence of armbands, bracelets, anklets, and lotuses attached to the elbows, point to the latter.
The absence of jewellery tells us that this is the historical buddha.
The meaning of the crown is still subject to debate and the interpretation varies from one geographical region to another. In Tibetan art it is often explained as a sign of the buddha having reached a higher realm.