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Large 18th C. Laotian Wooden Seated Buddha

Southeast Asia, Laos, ca. 18th century CE. An incredible, huge, dark wood figure of the Buddha, carved seated atop an elaborate, multi-tiered throne. Each of the five tiers of the throne is carved fully around with lotus blossoms; in the center, just below the crossed legs of the Buddha, is a larger floral design that looks like a rug laid down beneath the seated figure. The Buddha himself is stylized, with a relatively large head and a thin body with large, flat hands and feet. His crossed feet are stacked, while his hands are in the Bhumisparsha mudra, with his right hand over the right knee reaching towards the ground and the palm inward and touching the lotus throne. His left hand lies open in his lap. This mudra represents the moment of his awakening, as he defeated the demon Mara, and claimed the earth as his witness to his enlightenment. The Buddha's face includes two inlaid stone eyes and a heavy hairline with large ears. His hair is wonderfully carved as tiny studs all over its surface; a tall, flame-like ushnisha rises from the center of the head. Size: 9.25" L x 20.5" W x 45.225" H (23.5 cm x 52.1 cm x 114.9 cm)

Lao Buddhist art follows a carefully set, stylized template, with the Buddha always posed in particular mudras and his monastic robe always carved in one of two ways, either in covering mode, draping over both shoulders, or, as here, in open mode, where the right shoulder and chest are left uncovered. The robe is meant to be a representation of the Buddha's humility. Lao artisans were expected to be in a spiritual state as they carved, allowing them to channel the qualities of the Buddha in their artwork. As a result, each piece, despite its template, has a certain individuality that is at the discretion of the artist, here shown in features of the face and the elaborate throne.

Condition: Two small losses around the base, one on front and one on back. Surface crack up the front of the base to the foot. Expected surface wear commensurate with age. The stone inlaid eyes have dark patina on their surfaces.

Provenance: private Omer Claiborne collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA; acquired over the last 40 years

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