Buddhist Gallery Rotation 10.11

(Left)

Apsara Head

Cambodia, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Bayon style, 12th century

Sandstone

Gift of Mrs. Philip E. Spalding, 1935

(4279)

 

The walls of Angkorian temples were decorated with relief carvings of lithesome female deities known as apsaras. Consorts to gandharva, celestial musicians, apsaras were skilled in dancing, and, accompanied by their husbands’ music, danced in homage to the gods and goddesses enshrined in the temple. Embodiments of beauty and refinement, the countless apsaras gracing Angkorian monuments provide invaluable information about early Cambodian dance, and are among the best-known artistic images of the Angkor kingdom.

 

According to inscriptions from Jayavarman VII’s time, royally sponsored temples supported as many as a thousand dancers who resided in the compound surrounding the temple and played an essential role in its many ceremonies and festivals.


(Center left)

Standing Buddha

Thailand, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Lopburi style, 13th century

Stone

Purchase, 1928

(2686)

 

The area historically known as Lavo, in the modern Thai province of Lopburi, was an important outpost of the Angkor kingdom. Lavo sculpture followed the trends set in the Angkorian capital, particularly the Bayon style, which persists in the facial features and swelling abdomen of this Buddha.

 

At the same time, the influence of Theravada Buddhist art from Sri Lanka became pervasive in northern Thailand as Angkorian control waned, resulting in a distinct Lopburi style. While Angkorian sculptures in the Bayon style reveal an increasing trend toward elaboration and adornment, best represented in the crowned and jeweled Buddhist deities from Jayavarman VII’s time, the post-Bayon Lopburi style shows an opposite trend towards simple, serene images with little decoration.

 

During the fourteenth century, Theravada Buddhism spread from Thailand to Cambodia, with a resulting move away from the styles of the Angkor kingdom. After this time, most sculptures were made of wood, marking an end to the great Angkorian tradition and a new start for the arts in Cambodia.


(Center right)

Torso

Cambodia or Thailand, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Bayon style, 12th-13th century

Sandstone

Gift of John Young, 1991

(6693.1)


(Right)

Muchilinda Buddha

Cambodia, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Bayon style, 12th century

Sandstone with traces of pigment and gold

Gift of Drs. Edmund and Julie Lewis, 2003

(12839.1)

 

According to Buddhist legend, shortly after Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment he entered into a meditation so deep he was unaware of a raging tempest that engulfed him. The naga (serpent deity) Muchilinda, who resided in the roots of the tree under which the Buddha sat, came out of the ground and encircled his body around the saint seven times, spreading out his seven-headed hood as a shelter against the rain. After seven days, the storm relented, whereupon Muchlinda took the form of a Brahmin youth and paid homage to the Buddha.

 

Naga, deriving from Indian myths, were highly venerated in the Angkor kingdom, since they were associated with water, the regular supply and control of which were important concerns for the state. Images of Muchilinda protecting the Buddha became popular in Cambodia during the resurgence of Buddhism in the eleventh century, and were especially common during the reign of the Buddhist ruler Jayavarman VII.


(Left)

Muchilinda Buddha

Thailand, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Lopburi style, 13th-14th century

Sandstone

Promised Gift of Joel Alexander Greene

(L39131)


(Center left)

Lokeshvara

Cambodia, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Pre Rup style, 10th century

Sandstone

Purchase, 2003

(12477.1)

 

After an interlude during the rule of Jayavarman IV (and the brief reign of his son, lasting only a few years), the capital of the Angkor kingdom was returned to the Angkor area in modern Siem Reap by Rajendravarman II. Rajendravarman II’s rule initiated an intense period of building, and the Pre Rup style of sculpture, taking its name from Rajendravarman II’s state temple, is characterized by a move away from the rigidity of preceding styles towards an increased naturalism, at the same time that technical perfection and attention to detail were continued.

 

While the state temple of Pre Rup was dedicated to Shiva, this period also saw a resurgence of Buddhism that continued through the end of the tenth century. This sculpture depicts the Bodhisattva Lokeshvara (“Lord of the World”), identifiable by the small figure of the Buddha Amitabha seated in its crown. Lokeshvara commonly is known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, due to his vow to appear to anyone who calls for his aid, in the form in which it would be most efficacious to release that person from the bonds of ignorance and suffering.

 


(Center right)

Anonymous

Standing Buddha

Cambodia, late Angkor period (802-1432), 13th century

Wood, lacquer

Promised Gift of Joel Alexander Greene

(L39125)


(Right)

Anonymous

Standing Deity

Cambodia, post-Angkor period, 15th century

Wood with traces of lacquer, gilding and pigment

Gift of Dr. Reda Sobky, 2007

(13816.1)

 

After attaining its last cultural zenith under the reign of the Buddhist monarch Jayavarman VII (r. 1182/3-ca. 1218), the Angkor kingdom went into decline. The capital suffered a devastating invasion from the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya in 1431, after which it was abandoned, marking the end of the Angkor period.

 

Surviving sculptures from Angkor are predominantly made of sandstone, which was readily available near the capital. However, as the political center shifted to Phnom Penh in the delta region of the Mekong River, stone became more difficult to obtain, and there was a marked shift to wood as the favored material. At the same time, worship moved from the state-sponsored cults to Shiva and Vishnu that characterized most Angkor temples, and Mahayana Buddhism during Jayavarman VII’s reign, to Theravada Buddhism, which spread from Sri Lanka to Thai states like Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, and from there to Cambodia. Consequently, post-Angkorian sculpture changed in emphasis from the many Bodhisattvas of the Mahayana pantheon to the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. While this sculpture has suffered from the ravages of time and the humid delta climate, its finely detailed carving remains an impressive testament to the continuing high quality of plastic arts during the post-Angkorian period.


Finial With Garuda and Naga

Cambodia, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Bayon style, 12th century

Bronze

Gift of John Young, 1992

(7086.1)

 

The mount of the Hindu deity Vishnu, Garuda is shown here grasping naga serpent deities in either hand. This derives from a story recounted in the great Indian epic Mahabharata, in which Garuda’s mother was held hostage by naga seeking the elixir amrita that gave immortality to the gods. With the help of the ruler of the gods, Indra, Garuda tricked the naga into releasing his mother while stealing back amrita. Consequently, naga became this deity’s sworn enemy, and he is often shown defeating them in Angkorian arts.


Muchilinda Buddha, Lokeshvara, and Prajnaparamita

Cambodia, Angor kingdom (802-1432)

Bayon style, 13th century

Bronze

Gift of Joel Alexander Greene, 2004

(12943.1)

 

Numerous images of the Buddha, Lokeshvara, and Prajnaparamita in bronze survive from the reign of the Angkorian monarch Jayavarman VII, indicating the widespread popularity of this triad during his rule. Lokeshvara, the male embodiment of Compassion, and Prajnaparamita, the female embodiment of wisdom, represent the key virtues that define the Bodhisattva path promoted by Mahayana Buddhism, and together with the Buddha these three deities manifest the full perfection of Mahayana teachings.

 


During Jayavarman VII’s reign, Prajnaparamita and Lokeshvara also were connected with the indigenous practice of worshipping neak ta (ancestor spirits), since Prajnaparamita was enshrined as the central icon in the memorial temple dedicated to the ruler’s mother, Ta Prohm, while Lokeshvara was enshrined in the memorial temple for his father, Preah Khan.

 

The broad foreheads, oval faces, and wide mouths of these figures are characteristic of the Bayon style. Several surviving sculptures from this period are believed to be portraits of the royal family, including portrait statues of Jayavarman VII himself that were distributed throughout the empire. While not every image of a deity from the time should be identified as a royal portrait, the distinctive facial features of the Bayon style in no small part developed from these portrait statues.


Pair of Finials Springing From the Jaws of a Makara

Cambodia, Angkor kingdom (802-1432)

Angkor Wat style, 12th century

Bronze with traces of gilding

Purchase, 1991

(6187.1-2)

 

Relief carvings at Angkor Wat show the royal palanquin adorned with bronze finials and hooks, allowing us to interpret these finials as having once adorned a palanquin, chariot, throne, or other similar wooden structure that has not survived.

 


Numerous Angkorian bronzes from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries indicate that bronze casting achieved new levels of technical refinement at that time, with bronze serving a wide range of functions, from religious statuary to mirrors.

 

The ends of these finials terminate in makara, aquatic creatures from Indian mythology that frequently were incorporated into the floral scrolls and other decorative motifs used by Angkorian artists.


Buddha Head and Torso

Thailand, Sukhothai kingdom (13th-15th century) to

post-Sukhothai period, 15th-16th century

Bronze

Gift of Mrs. Christian H. Aall, 1991

(6269.1)


Walking Buddha

Thailand, Sukhothai kingdom (13th-15th century), 15th century

Bronze

Bequest of Mrs. George Frederick Kline, 1994

(7757.1)

 

Depictions of the “walking Buddha” were first introduced during the Sukhothai kingdom, and this unique iconography became one of the most characteristic forms of Buddhist art in Thailand. The “walking Buddha” might derive from a pan-Asian cult dedicated to the Buddha’s footprints, and statues such as this frequently had bases that showed footprints being left behind by the figure.


Seated Buddha

Thailand, Sukhothai kingdom (13th-15th century), 14th-15th century

Bronze

Promised Gift of Joel Alexander Greene

(L39132)


Standing Buddha

Thailand, Sukhothai kingdom (13th-15th century), 14th-15th century

Bronze

Promised Gift of Joel Alexander Greene

(L39133)


Buddha Plaque

Thailand, Ayutthaya kingdom (1351-1767), 15th-16th century

Gold

Purchase, 1959

(2610.1)

 

 

 

Comments