Thailand, Lan Na kingdom, Chieng Sen,
bronze with original gilding – height: 48cm
This gilded sculpture depicts the historical Buddha Sakyamuni, also known as the Buddha of compassion who turns suffering into happiness for all living beings. Buddha is seated in virasana with his hands in maravijaya. The present bronze demonstrates the artistic achievement of bronze casters active in Chieng Sen in the 16th century.
Lan Na established in the 13th century in Northern Thailand and was one of the most powerful states in the country until its fall in 1556. Chieng Mai, the capital of the kingdom since 1327, became renowned for its bronze casting workshops and developed a unique artistic language, subtly influenced by Pala sculpture from India, and the Sukhothai style. Some of the earliest images of the Buddha produced in Thailand originate from Chieng Sen, indicating its artistic importance and presence of skilled workshops.
The physiognomy of 16th century Chieng Sen Buddha images differs from images made in other parts of the country. Its location at the Mekong River and closeness to the borders of Laos generated a cultural and artistic influx. As a result, artists from this region, referred to as the golden triangle, created Buddha images with distinct artistic characteristics much inspired by Lao art - particularly in the 15th and 16th centuries. This sculpture displays this influence clearly, including the equal length of his long fingers, the sharp lines decorating the shawl draped over his left shoulder and outlined finger nails, knuckles, ankles, and neck lines. Whilst this Buddha has stylised shapes and features, it also demonstrates delicate elements, such as the small spikey curls, fine headband and sensitively carved face. The lotus throne is treated with much care as well, including a pearled rim and raised lotus petals decorated with incised flower and geometric designs. The tall base, onto which the throne is set, is bare and possibly once bore an inscription. Overall the sculpture is in good condition, revealing authentic gilding and remains of the original clay mould inside the sculpture.
Collection Mr. and Mrs. Van Dongen, The Netherlands
Boisselier, Jean. The Heritage of Thai Sculpture. New York/Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1975.
Griswold, A. B. Dated Buddha Images of Northern Siam. Ascona/Switzerland: Artibus Asiae, 1961.
Stratton, Carol. “sop-li: a fifteenth century lan na bronze-casting workshop”. in The Journal of the Siam Society, Vol. 97 (2009): pp.161-175.
Thailand, Lan Na kingdom,
Chieng Sen, 16th century
bronze with original gilding
– height: 48cm