Sukhothai Buddha Head
The powerful Sukhothai Kingdom
In the center of Thailand, the powerful Sukhothai Kingdom reached its political apogee during the reign of Ram Khamhaeng (c. 1279 –1299) and his successors. Sculptors of that period created an original set of aesthetics that became one of the most original styles in Thai art, and one which remained a recurring aesthetic reference until the end of the 19th century. The most beautiful works, however, were created a bit after the period of his political acme and date back only to the 14th or even early 15th century.
The “Classical” period of Thai art
It is to this “classical” period of Thai art that this very beautiful and impressive head belongs, having all the characteristics: perfectly oval face, long aquiline nose, arched eyebrows that continue in the extension of the nose, heavy eyelids over almost closed eyes, hair in tight and well-defined curls. At the top of the skull, above the highly developed protuberance (or uṣṇīṣa), stands a flame (rasmi), symbol of the spiritual force of the Enlightened. Fortunately preserved, this ornament is an influence of Sri Lankan art. Finally, the smile, discreet and enigmatic, enhancesthe expression of serene plenitude that emanates from this superb Buddha.
A remarkable quality
The features of the face are of a superb regularity, the incisions drawing the contours of the lips, the eyelids, the nostrils and even the chin are made with great finesse, highlighting the volumes and the curves. The delicate polish of the face also offers a nice visual contrast with the rough aspect of the hair curls in relief. This is a large and impressive head, and the beautiful remains of lacquer and gilding add a variety of shades to the magnificent patina of the bronze: this is truly an exceptional artwork.
Private collection, England, c. 1950-1980.