Crowned Buddha head

Gilded bronze with traces of lacquer
16th-17th century, Ayutthayā kingdom (1350-1767)
H. 21 cm or 8 ¼ in

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This representation of Śākyamuni Buddha depicted with crown and jewels is that of the “universal ruler” (cakravartin). Although the dominant Buddhist school in the Kingdom of Ayutthayā is Theravada, the strictest and most sober school meaning “School of the Elders”, this iconography nevertheless imposes itself as in the other schools of Buddhism. It even becomes emblematic of the period of Ayutthayā, during which it was expanding rapidly, both for conceptual and pietist reasons and for its extremely decorative aspect.

The face perpetuates, yet modifies, the Sukhothai style by making it softer. The nose, for instance, is less prominent, the mouth more smiling and the lips fuller. The hair is braided into a high topknot – now missing – at the top of the head, behind a crown of intricate floral design on either side of small cabochons inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

A certain tendency to be more decorative is visible in Ayutthayā art from the very beginning. This tendency becomes more accentuated as the centuries pass. The extreme delicacy of the face, the marked relief of the tiara, the stylized curving ears and the very high bun all lend this head a particularly appealing air. This decorative style was the rage in Bangkok after 1782.
Condition report:
The piece is in a good state of preservation. The pyramidal bun is lost and the lower end of the left ear is missing.
Provenance: This piece comes from a Swiss private collection.