BUDDHA: Antique Cambodian/Khmer, Abaya Mudra. Bronze, Excavated Figure. pre 1800
This is a very fine figure of the Lord Buddha cast by the lost wax process in Cambodia sometime in the 1700's. It is an excavated piece, and, as such, is heavily encrusted with deposits of all kinds and plenty of shmutz, ( a highlyrefined and elegantterm of art).
Although made at a much later time, this figure reflects the traditions of the art made during the height of the Khmer hegemony from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries in that part of Southeast Asia we now call Cambodia. More specifically it recalls the art made under Jayavarman VII in the 15th century. Although a devout Buddhist himself, Jayavarman was known and revered for his kindness and compassion, building many hospitals and orphanages. He was also tolerant of other religions as evidenced by the combination of Buddhist and Hindu elements and symbols in the art of his time. Sculpture in the Bayon style (named for the main temple in Angkor) is marked by two seemingly opposed characteristics. Figures of the Lord Buddha are often shown wearing ornamented crowns or diadems similar to those worn by the Hindu deity ,Vishnu, and adorned with ornate necklaces and belts. The intention was to portray the Buddha as a powerful universal monarch in keeping with contemporary images of Hindu gods. But there is also an intense spirituality in the expression of the figures which reflects the humility and compassion usually associated with Buddhism.
Our figure of the Lord Buddha is crowned and attired in royal garments as typical of the Bayon style. He holds both of his hands in Abhaya Mudra, the mudra or gesture of imparting fearlessness or reassurance. Is is like the angelic biblical greetings which always begin, "Fear Not."
This double Abaya Mudra is also sometimes related to a miracle story of the Buddha calming the ocean.
This figure of the Lord Buddha also has seven eyes: in addition to his two natural ones, he has a symbolic one on his forehead, an urna, and one on each of his hands and feet. The urna and the eyes on his hands are easily visible in the photos, the ones on his feet are more difficult to see. In fact,theyare barely perceptible even on close inspection, but I believe they are there, or were they and have worn away.. These "extra" eyes symbolize his vigilance and ability to see and understand all the suffering in the world, samsara.I find this a particularly affecting bit of iconography.
Our Buddha stands8 1/4 inches tall and has no serious damage.The bottom seems to have been closed at one time but the plate has corroded away in the middle revealing the tempered core of sand and clay.
I particularly admire the peaceful expression on his face and his double Abhaya mudra.I have kept him a long time on my desk as a reminder to "Fear Not.
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From the estate of a gentleman who was employed by the US State Department and posted to Southeast Asia during the middle years of the last century. His widow told me that he bought all of his figures from a very well respected dealer in Bangkok and that they were all brought into this country before any strictures were placed on the export of antiquities by any of the countries in Southeast Asia.
Due to the limitations of photography and the inevitable differences in monitor settings, the color of the pictures may be slightly different on your monitor from the figure itself, but I did my best to capture it as it is. And at least on my monitor, the color is nearly a perfect match.
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