Is this actually a portrait of Buddha, drawn by one of his disciples?

Supposed portrait of Buddha

Here is a link saying:

One of Buddha's disciple draw it secretly, while Buddha was teaching.

Yes, Sakyamuni Buddha is Mongoloid race.

The original photo stored in British museum.

Gautama Buddha's real portrait at the age of 41

  • 20
    It's amazingly well-preserved for something 2500 years old :-) Also, it seems (at least to this non-artist) to follow modern artistic conventions, not those of ancient India.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 19:33
  • 1
    The currently accepted answer does nothing to address the actual provenance of the picture, nor any of the specific claims in the question. It almost totally relies on a priori or circular reasoning, and an unsupported assertion that listed characteristics are both perfectly accurate and distinct from the subject image. The (notably upvoted) answer by DavePhD provides expert opinion that this is a very recent work, and definitely not held in the British Museum, thereby demonstrating a supported response appropriately.
    – Nij
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 11:00
  • @Nij I thought the question was asking about the provenance of the picture and the historicity of the claim, and so I suggested that the OP ask this question here. If the question had been "What do the Pali suttas record about the Buddha's physical appearance?" then it would have stayed on Buddhism.SE.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


Is this actually a portrait of Buddha, drawn by one of his disciples?

The Buddha lived 2500+ years ago hence there is no chance that this could have been the actual looks of the Buddha by someone who has seen him.

Buddhist art did not depict the Buddha initially

the Buddha was never represented in human form, but only through Buddhist symbolism

Source: Buddhist art

So this is not the likes of the Buddha for the reason this is not based on someone who has seen the Buddha himself nor does it have the generally depicted characteristics of the Buddha.

But what the Buddha looked like is depicted in early text source which is described below. The Buddha has the following characteristics according to ancient sources like Lakkhana Sutta

The 32 major characteristics are:

  1. Level feet
  2. Thousand-spoked wheel sign on feet
  3. Long, slender fingers
  4. Pliant hands and feet
  5. Toes and fingers finely webbed
  6. Full-sized heels
  7. Arched insteps
  8. Thighs like a royal stag
  9. Hands reaching below the knees
  10. Well-retracted male organ
  11. Height and stretch of arms equal
  12. Every hair-root dark colored
  13. Body hair graceful and curly
  14. Golden-hued body
  15. Ten-foot aura around him
  16. Soft, smooth skin
  17. Soles, palms, shoulders, and crown of head well-rounded
  18. Area below armpits well-filled
  19. Lion-shaped body
  20. Body erect and upright
  21. Full, round shoulders
  22. Forty teeth
  23. Teeth white, even, and close
  24. Four canine teeth pure white
  25. Jaw like a lion
  26. Saliva that improves the taste of all food
  27. Tongue long and broad
  28. Voice deep and resonant
  29. Eyes deep blue
  30. Eyelashes like a royal bull
  31. White ūrṇā curl that emits light between eyebrows
  32. Fleshy protuberance on the crown of the head

The 80 minor characteristics of the Buddha are known to be enumerated a number of times in the extant Āgamas of the Chinese Buddhist canon.

The eighty minor characteristics are:

  1. He has beautiful fingers and toes.
  2. He has well-proportioned fingers and toes.
  3. He has tube-shaped fingers and toes.
  4. His fingernails and toenails have a rosy tint.
  5. His fingernails and toenails are slightly upturned at the tip.
  6. His fingernails and toenails are smooth and rounded without ridges.
  7. His ankles and wrists are rounded and undented.
  8. His feet are of equal length.
  9. He has a beautiful gait, like that of a king-elephant.
  10. He has a stately gait, like that of a king-lion.
  11. He has a beautiful gait, like that of a swan.
  12. He has a majestic gait, like that of a royal ox.
  13. His right foot leads when walking.
  14. His knees have no protruding kneecaps.
  15. He has the demeanor of a great man.
  16. His navel is without blemish.
  17. He has a deep-shaped abdomen.
  18. He has clockwise marks on the abdomen.
  19. His thighs are rounded like banana sheaves.
  20. His two arms are shaped like an elephant's trunk.
  21. The lines on the palms of his hands have a rosy tint.
  22. His skin is thick or thin as it should be.
  23. His skin is unwrinkled.
  24. His body is spotless and without lumps.
  25. His body is unblemished above and below.
  26. His body is absolutely free of impurities.
  27. He has the strength of 1,000 crore elephants or 100,000 crore men.
  28. He has a protruding nose.
  29. His nose is well proportioned.
  30. His upper and lower lips are equal in size and have a rosy tint.
  31. His teeth are unblemished and with no plaque.
  32. His teeth are long like polished conches.
  33. His teeth are smooth and without ridges.
  34. His five sense-organs are unblemished.
  35. His four canine teeth are crystal and rounded.
  36. His face is long and beautiful.
  37. His cheeks are radiant.
  38. The lines on his palms are deep.
  39. The lines on his palms are long.
  40. The lines on his palms are straight.
  41. The lines on his palms have a rosy tint.
  42. His body emanates a halo of light extending around him for two meters.
  43. His cheek cavities are fully rounded and smooth.
  44. His eyelids are well proportioned.
  45. The five nerves of his eyes are unblemished.
  46. The tips of his bodily hair are neither curved nor bent.
  47. He has a rounded tongue.
  48. His tongue is soft and has a rosy-tint.
  49. His ears are long like lotus petals.
  50. His earholes are beautifully rounded.
  51. His sinews and tendons don't stick out.
  52. His sinews and tendons are deeply embedded in the flesh.
  53. His topknot is like a crown.
  54. His forehead is well-proportioned in length and breadth.
  55. His forehead is rounded and beautiful.
  56. His eyebrows are arched like a bow.
  57. The hair of his eyebrows is fine.
  58. The hair of his eyebrows lies flat.
  59. He has large brows.
  60. His brows reach the outward corner of his eyes.
  61. His skin is fine throughout his body.
  62. His whole body has abundant signs of good fortune.
  63. His body is always radiant.
  64. His body is always refreshed like a lotus flower.
  65. His body is exquisitely sensitive to touch.
  66. His body has the scent of sandalwood.
  67. His body hair is consistent in length.
  68. He has fine bodily hair.
  69. His breath is always fine.
  70. His mouth always has a beautiful smile.
  71. His mouth has the scent of a lotus flower.
  72. His hair has the colour of a dark shadow.
  73. His hair is strongly scented.
  74. His hair has the scent of a white lotus.
  75. He has curled hair.
  76. His hair does not turn grey.
  77. He has fine hair.
  78. His hair is untangled.
  79. His hair has long curls.
  80. He has a topknot as if crowned with a royal flower garland.

Source: Physical characteristics of the Buddha

  • What is your opinion about analysis by Douglas M. Gildow ?
    – Swapnil
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 8:17
  • See any body can rationalise the appearance based on different conjecture. What is there is the descriptions in the ancient text which is generally accepted by Buddhists hence it is prudent to assume the likeness would be as described. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 9:08
  • 1
    @Oddthinking You said "Most of this post isn't an answer to the question". I think the implicit argument in this answer might be that the canon describes the Buddha as having these lists of physical characteristics ... and that the picture doesn't show these characteristics, and that therefore the picture is not authentic. I guess that from according to the policy defined on Skeptic's meta, it's up to each reader of this answer to decide whether to consider the sutta[s] as reliable evidence on this subject.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 10:26
  • 1
    Most of your characteristics aren't related to the face. The others seem vague. Jaw like a lion? Maybe. Ears as long as lotus petals? Maybe.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 10:29
  • 1
    The description of Buddha in those texts made me visualize a really weird alien being. I wonder how that guy from Ancient Aliens didn't pick this up yet to some more weird 'science'.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 18:36

This claim is analyzed by Douglas M. Gildow in the article A True Likeness of Śākyamuni?

He concludes it is of recent Indonesian origin and definitely not at the British museum.

...managed to contact Roderick Whitfield, a scholar formerly employed as Assistant Keeper in the Department of Oriental Antiquities of the British Museum, to see if there was any such image in the museum. He reported that Whitfield replied: “There is nothing remotely like this at the British Museum,” and in an email dated 6 December 2007 Whitfield confirmed to me that he had indeed made that statement

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .