Until 2nd May, 2024

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A STUCCO HEAD OF A BODHISATTVA, KU BUA, MON-DVARAVATI PERIOD
LOT 1404 - AK0124

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Lot details

The city of Mueang Ku Bua in the Dvaravati kingdom, 7th-9th century. The bodhisattva is carved with thick, matted locks similar to those of Shiva and Avalokiteshvara, carved with heavy-lidded downcast eyes, with a broad nose and full lips curling slightly in a calm smile.

Provenance: The Phillips Family Collection, Lawrence and Shirley Phillips, and thence by descent to Michael Phillips (born 1943), who is an Academy Award-winning film producer. Born in Brooklyn, New York, his parents were Lawrence and Shirley Phillips, noted New York dealers in Asian fine arts, selling to the Met, the LACMA, the Chicago Art Institute, and the British Museum among others. Michael Phillips is a collector of Asian art himself, particularly Indian, Southeast Asian, and Himalayan sculpture. His most important films include The Sting (winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1973), Taxi Driver (winning the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival), and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Condition: Commensurate with age, showing old wear, signs of weathering, erosion, losses, remnants of soiling and encrustation from an extended period of burial. A hole drilled to the back for fixture to the stand.

Weight: 1,016.5 g
Dimensions: Height 15.8 cm (incl. stand), 11.5 cm (excl. stand)

Please click here to read the full description

Mounted on a metal stand. (2)

The city of Mueang Ku Bua was discovered by archeologists Phra Phuttawiriyakon and Somdet Phra Phutthapa on May 25, 1951, who were informed of the site by a group of local monks. The site was excavated in 1960 and was discovered to be substantially larger than earlier expected. Amidst the many excavated objects were numerous clay and stucco sculptures which decorated the ancient Buddhist monuments. The enormous number of sculptures found at the site suggested to archeologists the importance of this ancient city to the Dvaravati kingdom.

The Mon polity of Dvaravati was one of the earliest and most important societies in mainland Southeast Asia. Based around the Chao Phraya and Mae Klang river basins of central Thailand, the Dvaravati polity was known from early Chinese textual sources, as well as being mentioned in a single local inscription that dates to roughly 550-650 AD. Due to the large number of Buddhist sculptures associated with the culture, it is clear the rulers were patrons of the Buddhist faith. The images of Buddha are heavily influenced by contemporary Indian sculptural styles, including the Gupta style based around the site of Sarnath. The facial features of the Mon Dvaravati Buddhist images, however, display arched, joined eyebrows which are unlike those found in India, and which are therefore characteristic of the Mon Dvaravati style. Compared to earlier and later Thai kingdoms, Dvaravati was relatively geographically and economically isolated, which contributed to the distinct qualities of its sculpture, such as the eyebrows, the broad face, and the full, prominent lips. Additionally, the local stone was hard and difficult to work with, leading artists to prefer thick, strong features over softness and subtlety. Their style was bold, self-assured, recognizable, and highly influential on subsequent Thai sculpture and artistic production throughout Southeast Asia.

Literature comparison:
Compare the head of a related sculpture of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, 45.1 cm high, dated to the second half of the 7th century, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 1987.218.16, exhibited in ‘The Lotus Transcendent: Indian and Southeast Asian Art form the Samuel Eilenberg Collection,’ 2 October 1991-28 June 1992 and in ‘Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century,’ 14 April-27 July 2014. Compare a related stucco head of a male, 17.5 cm high, dated Mon-Dvaravati period, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 1987.142.287. Compare a relate sandstone bust of Śiva, dated to the 7th century, published in Hiram W. Woodward, Jr.’s book The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand: The Alexander B. Griswold Collection, pp. 55, pl. 48.
 

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