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12th C. Khmer Stone Naga-Enthroned Buddha

$22,995.00
Southeast Asia, Cambodia, Khmer Empire (Angkor culture), ca. late 12th to early 13th century CE. An enormous grey stone Buddha, seated on a three-tiered throne, with the flaring, hooded head of a giant naga, the serpent king Muchilinda, rising behind him protectively. His hands are in the Dhyana Mudra. This is a gesture of meditation, with the hands placed in the lap, right hand on left, with fingers full stretched out and palms facing upwards. The Buddha's face is serene, with a naturalistic and warm expression; he wears a skirt and has a crown topped by a detailed ushnisha. The serpent is well-rendered and symmetrical. A closer look at the throne reveals that it is the coils of the serpent's massive body. The story told here may be that Muchilinda is protecting the Buddha from heavy rain; this iconographic depiction of the Buddha is a common one from the reign of Khmer King Jayavarman VII (reigned ca. 1181 to 1218 CE), who established a cult based around it. Scholars believe that this may be because Jayavarman was disabled and snakes were associated with healing. The king is also known for the establishment of hospitals throughout his kingdom. Comes with custom stand. Size of statue: 12.35" L x 16.5" W x 33.5" H (31.4 cm x 41.9 cm x 85.1 cm); size on stand: 12.35" L x 16.5" W x 36" H (31.4 cm x 41.9 cm x 91.4 cm)

However, some scholars question the Buddha/Muchilinda story, saying that it is based on a misreading of the sources. Naga cults were common throughout Indian, Sri Lankan, and Southeast Asian artwork during this period, but the symbolism is somewhat unclear. Some have proposed that nagas could be symbolic vehicles for elevating the dead - equating to transcendence. That is based on interpretation of artwork from around Angkor Wat and other parts of the Khmer world. Others see the inclusion of the naga as a holdover from earlier symbolic practices. Khmer art moved away from Indian styles in the 7th century CE to encompass its own framework; one example of this seen here is that this statue is carved in the round, rather than as a relief on a stela, which was common with Indian and Javanese Hindu and Buddhist sculptures that were previously influencing Cambodian art. From this, we can infer that Khmer sculptors would have desired their artwork to be viewed from all sides, and thus placed in the center of temples rather than against a wall. While this artwork was religious - priests supervised its execution - its realism is unmistakable.

Condition: Figure has been broken/repaired at mid-section; signs of wear with small losses to knees and one of Naga's flares. Some surface pitting and wear. OF NOTE: Statues broken in half are far more rare/desirable because most Buddhas like this were decapitated when the Buddhists were overthrown around 1300.

Provenance: ex-private Arizona, USA collection, acquired in Bangkok, Thailand in early 2000. All appropriate legal and federally-compliant import documents will accompany item.

All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.

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