Part II: Fine Asian Works of Art:
Sydney, Monday 12 December 2016
India & South-East Asia
Buddha, or Siddhartha, as he was originally named, was born in northern India in 624 BCE, into the royal Gautama family and lived a life of luxury until his late twenties when he retreated into the forest to pursue a life of spiritual meditation.
It is said that he sat beneath the Bodhi (enlightenment) tree for over six years until he attained Awakening and was given the title ‘Buddha’, granted only to those who achieve the highest form of enlightenment.
Buddhism spread throughout India and over the following centuries, via the trade routes, throughout the wider regions. As it spread, the images that were created to represent it gradually adopted different styles under different cultures.
This collection features an evocative image from the earliest period of Buddhist sculpture in India, Mathura region, dating from the first to second century ACE. Although it demonstrates Gandahran influences, the representation has already morphed into a different, more expressive form.
As the influence of Buddhism travelled by sea and land across Asia it reached the Funan Kingdom in Cambodia around the 5th century in an area which was to later become the centre of the Khmer Empire.
Later, a second stream of Buddhism entered Khmer culture during the Angkor Period (8th century) when Cambodia absorbed the Buddhist traditions of the Mon Kingdoms of Dvaravati and Haripunchai.
The majestic figure of Vishnu, illustrated below, is yet another rare and important highlight in this collection. The four-armed deity stands supremely in a long finely detailed sampot with a fishtail sash at the back, the face with downcast eyes beneath a finely detailed diadem, the hair in a conical chignon.
Buddhism reached Vietnam via China and South-East Asia in the 2nd and centuries 3rd centuries AD.
Early examples of Vietnamese Buddhist Bronzes of the kind seen in this collection are very rare, as are Buddhist Bronzes of this quality. The Buddha illustrated above stands in a simple robe, the eyes and urna with gold inlay, the right hand displays the reasoning or exposition posture, “vitarkamudra” while the left hand holds onto the end of the robe.