Head of Shakyamuni Buddha
Thailand, Ayutthaya kingdom (1351-1767), 16th century
Bronze, gilding, and mother-of-pearl inlay
16½ × 6½ × 7 in. (41.9 × 17.8 × 16.5 cm)
Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas, 1984.12

Piece Description:
Successive kingdoms in the region that is now Thailand developed distinctive styles of Hindu and Buddhist art, building on a foundation laid in India and Sri Lanka. The art of the Gupta empire (ca. 320–550) was transmitted to Southeast Asia through active trade conducted overland and on sea routes to and from the Asian mainland. In north central Thailand, Buddha images are known from as early as the sixth century among the remnants of the ethnic Mon people of the Dvaravati kingdom. Inland and somewhat isolated from the coastal trade traffic that linked India and China with pre-Angkor kingdoms in the Mekong Delta, the Mon created Buddhist sculpture that is innovative in both style and iconography, possessing a youthful elegance that is rarely matched.

Thai (Tai)-speaking inhabitants of the north central Sukhothai kingdom expanded their territory southward and dominated much of modern-day Thailand between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They responded to an influx of Buddhist monks and emissaries from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism had maintained a continuous stronghold. Religious sculpture focused on the historical Buddha Shakyamuni and his disciples. In the mid-fourteenth century, the Sukhothai kingdom was eclipsed by a rival Thai kingdom further south, centered around the city of Ayutthaya.

The debt of the Ayutthaya style to Sukhothai art and before that Singhalese (Celanese, Sri Lankan) art in the depiction of the Buddha is visible in this work in the slender proportions, a single line as a marker of the brow, downcast eyes, gentle smile, and a focus on an interior state of being. Attenuated forms such as the ushnisha (cranial bump indicative of superior wisdom) and the sirispata, a flamelike finial arising from the ushnisha, show the influence of Singhalese art. Ayutthaya artists carried this linear verticality even further, with an elongated nose and earlobes, thinner faces, and greater angularity. There was also increased interest in ornamental gilding and the application of semiprecious stones, such as the mother-of-pearl inlay employed here for the eyes of the Buddha.


UTD Location Information:

Newly renovated in 2016, the TI Plaza was dedicated to the three founders of the University Cecil H. Green, J. Erik Jonsson and Eugene McDermott. This is a great spot to enjoy some greenery, take a nap, or read a good book.
Across from TI Plaza, you can see the newly relocated Love Jack, donated by Margaret McDermott. This 10 foot-tall steel Jack sculpture was created by American modernist sculptor and Texas native Jim Love, previously located at the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building.

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