Thailand, Mon Dvaravati kingdom,
8th - 9th century
bronze – height: 18.5cm
This sculpture portrays the historical Buddha Sakyamuni depicted standing with both arms bent at the elbow and hands in gestures of argumentation, vitarka mudra. A long sleeved cape like garment with a typical U-shaped hem is draped over both shoulders and falls down to Buddha’s ankles - this type of garment is generally referred to as antaravasaka. A sheer looking undergarment is visible at the hemline and indicated by two small rippling folds next to Buddha’s ankles. This iconography corresponds to the unique Buddha image that was created by the Mon Dvaravati people and first arose circa 6th century in present-day Thailand. The Dvaravati kingdom’s visual language, and that of the standing Buddha in particular, had a strong and long-lasting impact on the further evolution of Buddhist art in the region.
Apart from the iconography and garment, the fine casting of the sculpture is also characteristic of Dvaravati bronzes. The delicate hands, small tight curls covering the ushnisha surmounted by a lotus bud decoration, and broad face with pendulous earlobes and delicately incised facial features, demonstrate the technical skill of Dvaravati bronze casting workshops. Also noteworthy, is the form of the body showing from beneath the garment. The sculpture has an authentic dark grey patina with malachite marks and traces of gold in between the hair curls and in the narrow sleeves, confirming that the sculpture was once gilded.
A very similar, although more corroded example, can be found in the National Museum in U-Thong. The body, garment and robe are all treated in a similar way. The U-Thong Museum sculpture is depicted with an aureole, which is reminiscent of the Srivijaya school. There is a small loop attached to the reverse of the present sculpture, indicating an aureole was once attached to its back - alike the U-Thong example. Of course, as the Dvaravati standing Buddha iconography is more or less standardized, the differences come down to the level of details and way of modelling the body, garment and face; the present, although small in size, is a fine example with well-balanced proportions and a serene expression. This sculpture makes a graceful impression due to the modest yet precisely placed decorations - including the incised necklines and horizontal engraving indicating his waistline. The volumes and lines flow naturally and as a result the sculpture invokes spirituality.
Galerie Zacke, Katalognummer: Sk85-023, 1985
Private collection, Austria, 1985 – 2018
Zacke, Wolfmar. Skulpturen des Buddhismus und Hinduismus. 1985, no.23.
Boisselier, J. The Heritage of Thai Sculpture. New York/Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1975.
Smith, R.B. and W. Watson eds. Early South East Asia: Essays in Archaeology, History, and Historical Geography (School of Oriental & African Studies). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.