Head of Viṣṇu
12th-13th century, style of Lopburi
H. 53 cm or 20 ⅞ in
Very impressive in size, this head is striking. By looking at it, we immediately think of the art of Cambodia… and that’s almost correct. Although located in the center of Thailand, this region of Lop’burī was at that time under the control of the Khmer kingdom and was part of the empire of the famous King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182/1183-ca. 1218). This exceptional artwork has integrated the influence of Khmer art and thus possesses all the characteristics of the Bayon style.
In this extremely powerful face, with its angular character, we notice the typical full lips that outline a peaceful smile. The joined and raised eyebrow arches are also characteristic and accentuate the intensity of its gaze. It is very interesting to note that the eyes with closed eyelids in the Buddhist statuary of the Bayon style are well opened and prominent here. This can be explained by the monumental size: the head had to be placed in height and the gaze was thus clearly directed towards the temple’s faithful. Another reason is its attribution to a Hindu iconographic context: the Brahmanic gods are depicted with their eyes open.
The identification of this head as the great Hindu god Viṣṇu is justified by the presence of the conical bun and the superb jewelled tiara. One must note the very marked smooth lower band on the tiara, distinguishing the Khmer artworks of Thailand. The rich headdress with its multiple registers of pearl and floral motifs, also clearly visible at the back of the head, is beautifully carved, as are the heavy earrings.
Provenance: Private collection, France, since the 1960s.
Art Loss Register Certificate, ref. S00143107