4597

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Bronze Seated Buddha or Disciple

Thailand
late 18th century

height: 42cm, width: 39cm, depth: 19.5cm

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Provenance

private collection, UK. The previous owner built up a collection of Buddha images mostly from old UK colonial sources, and did so over a long lifetime.

This is a splendid image, and is the best example of this type that we have seen, published or otherwise.

It is well cast, highly sculptural and decorative, and has a superb patina. The exposed bronze particularly has an excellent varying, lustrous chocolate-brown patina. It is decorated in an early Rattanokarsin style, which is most particularly evident in the decoration around the tiered throne on which the image sits.

The image might be that of the Buddha or it could be that of a disciple or attendant. It is, however, seated in sattvasana on a tall, tiered architectural throne with hands in bhumisparsa and dhyana mudra. The hair is arranged in very tight curls.

The image and throne have been lacquered in black and red and then gilded (covered with gold leaf) which has worn with devotional wear.

The image, in the first instance, appears to be that of the Buddha – but there are some important iconographic departures which suggest that it might have been intended to be a Buddhistic attendant rather than the Buddha himself.

It does not have a cranial protuberance (the usnisha) which is associated with the Buddha. The left hand rests on the lap and is curled in a way that suggests that it might have held a fan or similar. Again, this might be more in keeping with an attendant.

But then the figure’s right hand is in the calling-the-earth-to-witness gesture (bhumisparsha mudra). This gesture is more in keeping with the image being that of the Buddha.

The back is cast with two ring lugs which would have allowed the image to be secured to a wall or platform, or would have allowed an umbrella to be inserted and raised over the image.

A gilded but less grand bronze of related form and posture is in the Doris Duke Collection (illustrated in Tingley, 2003, p, 33).

The image here is in fine condition. It is hollow-cast, although much of the clay firing core is still present. Overall, the image is serene and highly decorative. It sits flatly and in a stable manner. It is a superb piece.

References

Tingley, N., Doris Duke: The Southeast Asian Art Collection, The Foundation for Southeast Asian Art and Culture, 2003.

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