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Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

HEAD OF PRAJNAPARAMITA
Cambodia
Khmer period (Pre-Rup style), early 10th century
Height: 14.6 cm
Width: 10 cm
Depth: 8.8 cm

A finely sculpted yellowish grey sandstone head of the female deity Prajnaparamita wearing a high jewelled conical diadem or headdress decorated with horizontal patterns of continuous geometric designs including a diamond meander and bands of pearls or beads, below a tall cylindrical crown or mukuta, made up of horizontal patterns of braided hair with a rosette to the top. The diadem is tied in a knot to the back of the head.

Prajnaparamita is the Goddess of Transcendent Wisdom and Mother of all Buddhas and is identified by the tiny Amitabha Buddha on her mukuta who sits cross-legged in the dhyanamudra or meditive position.  Her face is clearly but simply modelled and depicts a mystical smile emanating from her thickly carved lips. She has a wide flaring nose and deeply set almond shaped eyes, further highlighted by disconnected incised lines above and below.  She stares directly out, engaging the viewer, below a plain wide forehead, which contrasts with the highly detailed crown above.  The elongated ears, pierced to the lobes sit to either side, with feint traces of hair depicted curving around the temple.  Her face is highly polished, giving a smooth and tactile appearance common in Khmer sculpture.  Small flecks of brown pigment in the stone can be seen to the forehead and right cheek.  To the neck is a pair of decorative lines, which follow its contours.

For a similar but slightly later head, see Wolfgang Felten and Martin Lerner, Thai And Cambodian Sculpture from the 6th to 14th centuries, 1988, no. 26 and p. 212.

Provenance:
Malaysian Diplomat purchased in the 1970s

all text & images Simon Ray: Indian & Islamic Works of Art

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