Asian Art
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Thai people Thailand
Buddha Shakyamuni carrying an alms bowl 19th century Place made: Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
Creation Notes: Ratanakosin period (1782- )
Materials & Technique: sculptures, bronze, lacquer and gold leaf
Dimensions: 140.0 h x 40.0 w x 29.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1977
Accession No: NGA 77.801.AB
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is currently being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses.
  • with antique dealer Santi Vichyastit of Santi's, Bangkok, 1977 or before
  • who sold it to the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1977 for USD 7,500
  • During the reign of the Thai King Rama III (1824–51), an official list was compiled outlining the forty poses considered suitable for images of the Buddha. Images with different hand gestures (mudras) and postures represented the days and times of the week. The depiction of the standing Buddha holding an alms bowl was associated with Wednesday morning. Each of the official images was also a depiction of an event in the Buddha’s life. The alms bowl refers to the occasion when the Buddha Shakyamuni returned to his home city of Kapilavastu, after attaining enlightenment. Although his family had prepared breakfast for him at the palace, they forgot to invite him. Instead, the Buddha received alms from the townspeople, an act that reflected his renunciation of the princely life he had previously led.

    Splendidly adorned in gold leaf, this image reflects the aesthetics of the Thai royal court in the nineteenth century. The pattern of the Buddha’s draped cloak is made up of masses of tiny images of the seated Buddha, and the inner lining is similarly intricate and ornate.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

  • Description

    This is a sculpture depicting Buddha Shakyamuni after attaining enlightenment. It is from Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand (19th century). The sculpture is shown in an enlargeable image. Text onscreen gives information about the important hand gestures (mudras) that represent different days and times of the week and the story of Buddha Shakyamuni. Visual analysis reveals the regal aesthetics of the Thai royal court in the nineteenth century. The sculpture measures 140.0 cm high x 40.0 cm wide x 29.0 cm deep and was constructed out of bronze, lacquer and gold leaf.

    Educational value

    • This is an excellent resource for the Responding strand in the visual arts curriculum for students in upper primary and secondary schooling, especially for those content descriptions that refer to considering the broader context of works of art, such as their social, cultural and historical context. The sculpture conforms to one of the forty poses considered suitable for images of the Buddha. This particular hand gesture and posture is also associated with Wednesday morning.
    • The resource is useful for the Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia cross-curriculum priority, especially for promoting an understanding of the religious diversity within Thailand and other parts of Asia. In particular, Buddhism and the associated traditions and belief systems could be further examined using this resource. It also identifies Thailand’s contribution to world history and interaction with world aesthetics and creative pursuits.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra