1. Buddha Sakyamuni
Thailand, Dvaravati, 8th century
height 54.6 cm
This slender bronze figure of Buddha, standing with both hands raised, epitomizes the sheer, unadorned beauty and unique features of the Dvaravati style.
The small Mon kingdom of Dvaravati in the Chao Phraya river basin lasted roughly from the seventh to the eleventh century. One of many competing territories in central and northern Thailand, Dvaravati remained relatively isolated, though cultural contacts with eastern India existed from an early date. That comparative isolation allowed a characteristic style to emerge, referred to as Mon-Dvaravati. It was conveyed in numerous works of art – sculptures in terracotta, stucco, metal and stone, votive tablets in terracotta and clay, huge stone dharmacakras – cast, moulded or carved in the main production centres for these works, such as Nakhon Pathom, Phra Patom, U-thong or Lopburi. The kingdom was eventually overthrown, but the Dvaravati style had a lasting inﬂuence on the art of their conquerors: the Burmese in the tenth century, the Khmer from the eleventh to the thirteenth century, and the Thai in the late thirteenth century.
From at least the sixth century the inﬂuence of the subcontinental Gupta and Amaravati styles was absorbed into the Dvaravati idiom, resulting in the creation of new iconographic conventions. Chief among them is the raising of both hands, often to form the same or a similar mudra, such as the vitarka mudra or preaching gesture. Our Buddha makes the abhaya mudra with his left hand and varada mudra with his right, respectively signifying fearlessness and boon-granting. Visible on the palm is a small circular lotus bud. The spread fingers – a masterly piece of casting – render the hands simultaneously sensitive and dramatic.
The idealized Indian forms are still perceptible in this eighth-century bronze: the broad shoulders and narrow waist, the smooth diaphanous robe that leaves the right shoulder uncovered and, like the clearly visible undergarment, falls to mid-shin. In the noble meditative face we see the radiant peacefulness of classical Indian Sarnath sculpture, although the features are typically Mon. The elongated eyes are closed, with slightly bulging lids, the nose is ﬂat, and the rimmed lips are full. The broad face is framed by long earlobes and the rows of tight curls that cover the head and ushnisha.
This elegant bronze figure of the Buddha, one of the tallest of its kind currently known, is a worthy and aesthetically captivating representative of the artistic genius of Dvaravati.
Collection Peng Seng Gallery, Bangkok, before 1968.
Collection Mr. S. Josefowitz, Lausanne / New York, 1968-2016.
Collection Mr. H. Shawcross, London, 2016-2018.
Rayon X Screening, Rijksmuseum Laboratory, Amsterdam, March 2018.
Condition Report, Neil F. Perry Ltd, London, 27.08.2018.
H. W. Woodward, Jr., The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand, The Alexander B. Griswold Collection, The Walters Art Gallery, Bangkok/London/Seattle and Washington, 1997, fig. 59.
P. Pal, A Collecting Odyssey, Indian, Himalayan, and Southeast Asian Art from the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection, Chicago, 1997, fg. 124.
P. Baptiste & T. Zéphir, Dvaravati aux sources du bouddhisme en Thailande, Musée Guimet, Paris, 2009, fig. 136.
P. Krairiksh, The Roots of Thai Art, Bangkok, 2012, fg. 2.220.
J. Guy, Lost Kingdoms, Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2014, fig. 120.
Detail: close up view