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Marcel Nies

25. Buddha Sakyamuni
Thailand, Lan Na
16th century
Bronze, cast in the lost wax method, fine patina with traces of lacquer and gilding
height 90 cm.

Buddha Sakyamuni

Most sculptural images made in Thailand, like this particularly large temple image of Sakyamuni, have been consecrated to the memory of the historical Buddha, and are intended as reminders of the great teacher and his doctrine. Because of the popular desire for intimacy with the Buddha, these statues became accepted as living beings, serving as a tangible set of practices that fulfill religious expectations. This Buddha represents one of his most significant and popular depictions: it represents the moment he attained the state of enlightenment. With his right hand, Buddha touches mother earth, indicating the subjugation of Mara, the Buddhist god of desire who had tempted the Buddha, and was the last obstacle in his attainment of perfection.

Seated in virasana (his right leg resting on his left), Buddha makes with his right hand the gesture of bhumisparsa mudra, his left hand is resting in his lap, in the gesture of contemplation. The ushnisa, the symbol which denotes wisdom, is depicted on top of his curly hair. Buddha is dressed in a monk's robe, with his right shoulder and arm bare. The elongated earlobes reflect his royal origins.

The important kingdom of Lan Na in northern Thailand was one of the most powerful Thai states; the cultural centre was the city of Chieng Mai which was founded in 1327 A.D. Influenced by the Indian Pala style, the Buddha images originating from the kingdom are created with great imagination and represent a classic style with an human character. Lan Na style elements are evident in the arched eyebrows, down cast eyes, lips bordered by contour lines and chin with incised semi-oval line. Typical for the Chieng Mai style are the oval face, the small haircurls and the end of the folded shawl of the sanghati which descents to the navel. The constructed throne is an addition of a typical Lan Na style and carried by three triangle shaped supports, depicting a hexagon with a row of large lotus leaves continuing at the back, vertical engraved lines and an edge of pearls. By comparison to the dated Buddha images this image can be placed in the first half of the 16th century. Literature; Griswold, 'Dated Buddha images of northern Siam' (1956).

This large impressive Buddha appears not merely as a massive image but rather radiates a feeling of peace and total harmony, revealing his state of enlightenment. Depicted with beautiful volumes, fine articulated lines and balanced proportions, this classic temple bronze can be considered as one of the best examples of its kind.

Formerly in the collection of Van Der Toorn Vrijthoff, Netherlands.

all text, images © Marcel Nies

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