Southeast Asia, Cambodia, Khmer Empire, ca. late 12th to early 13th century CE. Skillfully carved from a stone of rich taupe hues, the head of a Buddha - perhaps a royal presented as Buddha - carved with a characteristic Bayon style tiered ushnisha. The Buddha's visage is characteristically serene with a warm expression and naturalistic features including finely delineated downcast eyes, sinuous eyebrows, full lips and nose, fleshy cheeks, and elongated ears symbolizing wisdom and longevity. The portrait-like quality of this delineation is characteristic of the Bayon style, as oftentimes royals were depicted as Buddhas. (SeeSize: 7.375" W x 10.5" H (18.7 cm x 26.7 cm); 14.75" H (37.5 cm) on included custom stand.
Sculptors working in the Bayon style of the late 12th to early 13th century created many Buddhist images due to King Jayavarman VII's religious preference. Jayavarman VII who is still highly revered as a legendary Khmer king, was a devout Buddhist; however, he was also tolerant of other religions. This becomes clear when one notes the blending of Hindu and Buddhist symbols in Bayon art. For example, some sculptors depicted Buddha wearing a diadem quite similar to that traditionally worn by Vishnu. According to the curatorial team at the National Museum of Cambodia, "The intent was to portray the Buddha as a powerful universal monarch in keeping with the contemporary images of Hindu gods."
Another key aspect of the Bayon style was the value placed upon portraiture, especially the portrayal of royals as Buddhist deities. See a sandstone head of Jayavarman VII as Buddha that sold at Christies New York for $50,000 (Indian and Southeast Asian Art, March 22, 2011, Sale 2425, Lot 263).
Provenance: private Pacific Palisades, California, USA collection; ex private San Francisco, California USA collection, acquired in 1970s
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