4083

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Early Ayutthaya/U-Thong Style Gold Buddha

Ayutthaya, Thailand
mid-14th century

height: 17.5cm, width: 6.5cm, weight: 42.75g

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Provenance

Acquired in Bangkok prior to World War One by an English traveller, and thence by descent; private UK collection.

This fine, museum-quality, early example of a gold Buddha plaque is larger than most and with better defined and crisper features than is usual. The plaque if of thick, hammered solid gold sheet and the gold content tests at higher than 18 carats.

The image is from Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital before it was sacked by the Burmese in the 18th century and most probably was made to be placed in the brick foundations of a sacred building in the city. The city was founded around 1350 – about when this plaque dates to. The building program associated with the new city would have seen a number of these dedicatory plaques commissioned.

The Buddha is shown standing, with feet jutting out towards the viewer and with elongated arms and realistically flowing robes. The image has many of the classical features of a U-Thong or early Ayutthaya period Buddha – the halo has a pointed projection; the hair curls are small and densely packed; the unisha is low and relatively broad; the face is square with a realistic cleft chin; the eyes are half-closed and contemplative; the eyebrows are arched; the mouth is wide; the neck is short and thick; the body is well proportioned; the groove on the elongated earlobes is open and the lobes almost reach the shoulders; the outline of the undergarment belt is clearly visible; the robes cover both shoulders, which is typical for standing depictions of the Buddha of this period.

A related plaque attributed to mid-14th century Wat Ratchaburana at Ayutthaya is in Thailand’s Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, Ayutthaya (see Lopetcharat, 2015, p. 224 for an illustration). Slightly earlier gold plaques, dating to the 13th century and in the National Museum in Bangkok, are illustrated in Krairiksh (2012, p. 369).

The plaque is in a robust, stable condition. As might be expected, there is age-related light denting here and there. Overall, it is a magnificent and rare item.


Above: from Lopetcharat, S.,Lopburi and Thavaravadi Sculptures in Thailand, Siam International Book Company, 2015.

Below: The ruins of Ayutthaya, photographed January 2018.

 

References

Krairiksh, P., The Roots of Thai Art, River Books, 2012.

Lopetcharat, S., Lopburi and Thavaravadi Sculptures in Thailand, Siam International Book Company, 2015.

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