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This is an extraordinarily beautiful head of the Lord Buddha cast in bronze by the lost wax process and partially gilded in Thailand most likely sometime in the late 1800's. It could be earlier, but I doubt that it is much later. Although created at a later time, this figure reflects the traditions of the Sukhothai style, named after the kingdom centered around the city of Sukhothai in northern Thailand, which lasted from 1238 to 1438.
Sukhothai [translated as The Dawn of Happiness] Sculpture was inspired by Theravada Buddhism which created a new style in which spiritual serenity is merged with human form and reflected in the numerous images of the Buddha. Sculptors did not base their images on strict human form but on interpretations of metaphors from religious verse and Pali language scriptures. Accordingly, the artists created images that were intended to reflect the compassionate and superhuman nature of the Buddha.
The Kingdom of Sukhothai had important contacts with Sri Lanka. Thai monks traveled to Sri Lanka for further religious instruction, and Sri Lankan monks settled in Sukhothai and, thereby, the religious art of the latter kingdom was influenced by Sri Lankan art. The images of the Lord Buddha in the Sukhothai era also acquired some characteristics from the images of the Khmer and Mon era.
In general, the Sukhothai style is characterized by a large flame finial (the ketumala) on the top of the head and above the usual top knot (the ushnisha) indicating the heightened spiritual awareness and transcendent wisdom of the Lord Buddha. The head is covered with finely curled hair usually with a strong widow's peak. The face is oval, with high curving eyebrows, a downward gaze, and displays overall a gently smiling expression. Sukhothai images show idealistic or superhuman characteristics, and, as with so much of SouthEastern Asian art, the intent of the artist is to portray a spiritual serenity merged with a human form, rather than a realistic representation of the Buddha's actual body. All of these elements are present in our Buddha. Many art historians consider the Sukhothai style, with its refined, elegant lines and proportions, to be the very acme of Thai sculpture.
Our Buddha is an example par excellence of this refined elegance withone interesting exception.Instead of a widow's peak, our Buddha has a band at the bottom edge of his coiffure which continues around to the back.
Judging by the irregular and jagged bottom edge of the neck of this head, it was most likely rudely removed from a larger statue, probably of the Lord Buddha seated in Marivijava, the position of meditation in which prince Gautama achieved enlightenment and subdued Mara. It is the most frequently used assana or posture in most of Thai art and in the Sukhothai style in particular.
The ketumala, of flame is particularly deeply modeled.
The two things I love most about this Buddha are his beautiful patina and his gentle expression.
His ketumala and face were gilded, but much of the gilding has naturally been worn away revealing the reddish layer of lacquer underneath.This combination of the flashing of the remaining gold with thegrey/green verdigris of the patterned coiffuremakes for a beautiful and complicated patina.
And the consummately gentle expression on the Lord Buddha's face is one of absolute peace, calm and cheerfullness.
On its wooden standthis head itself is7 3/4 inches tall; the head itself is 5 3/4inches tall. The head hasa very small amount of adhesive residue on the very bottom edge of the neck by which it was probably kept in place in the wooden stand which appears to have been made especially for it. I have not tried to remove this residue.
There is no significant damage to the head whatsoever, apart from the jagged bottom edge of the neck, and no sign of repair or restoration.
The photographs give a very good idea of the beauty and finesse of this wonderfulexample of Sacred Thai Art.
If you should have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. And thanks for looking.
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 a perfect match.
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