9. Head of Buddha
Thailand, Lan Na Kingdom 14th century
Bronze, cast in the lost wax method
Height 45 cm
Once part of a complete temple statue this impressive portrait represents the historical Buddha Sakyamuni. Having achieved the highest evolutionary perfection, this Buddha of compassion turns suffering into happiness for all living beings. His eyes are lowered beneath finely arching brows, his mouth curves in a gentle smile. His head and ushnisa are covered in large curls. The elongated earlobes, caused by the wearing of heavy earrings in his youth, reflect his royal origins.
The Kingdom of Lan Na was founded in the late thirteenth century, and until its capture in 1556, it was one of the most powerful Thai states. The city of Chieng Mai, established in 1327, was its cultural and political centre. This portrait head of Buddha is amongst the earliest known examples of the Chieng Mai style. Though the influence of the Indian Pala style is apparent, the arched eyebrows, downcast eyes, lips defined by contour lines, incised chin, and oval face, are clear Lan Na characteristics. The extremely large and pronounced curls as well as the open earlobes are likewise features of this early Thai style.
This more than life-sized bronze head has a beautiful volume and portrays the Buddha as an approachable human character. Serene in expression, it is nonetheless striking in its lively presence and sense of vital energy, revealing the absorbing inner power of the Buddha. This superb head is one of the finest known examples of early Thai art.
Private collection, Italy before 1987.
Collection Mr and Mrs D. Ghigo, Italy, 29 March 1987-2016.
J. Boisselier, La Sculpture en Thailande, Fribourg, 1974, fig. 113.
C. Stratton, Buddhist Sculpture of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, 2004, fig. 9.6.
L. Somkiart, Thailand, A History in Buddha Image, volume 1, Bangkok, 2006, pp. 222, 224 & 227.