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Mon people Standing Buddha [The Eilenberg Buddha] 8th century Place made: Thailand
Creation Notes: Mon-Dvaravati period (6th-8th century)
Materials & Technique: sculptures, bronze
Dimensions: 48.5 h x 19.8 w x 19.5 d cm
Acknowledgement: Gift of Dr David Pfanner and Dr Ruth Pfanner as part of 100 Works for 100 Years: a gift to the nation for the centenary of Canberra 2013
Accession No: NGA 2012.1807
Provenance:
  • 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 Samuel Eilenberg, New York, from 1950s or 1960s
  • to his wife Natasha Eilenberg (née Chterenzon) through a divorce settlement, New York, 1969
  • by descent to the estate of Natasha Eilenberg, 2012
  • offered for sale via Bonhams auction, New York, 11 September 2012
  • when bought by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2012 for USD 673,500

This rare and serenely beautiful figure of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, is unusually large for a bronze from the early Dvaravati kingdom of central Thailand. Buddhist art flourished under the Mon-speaking rulers who dominated the region during the sixth to thirteenth centuries before they succumbed to Burmese and later to Thai powers.

Draped around the Buddha’s slim torso is a diaphanous robe, only clearly articulated in the front of the image by the elegant sweep of cloth falling from the left shoulder. The figure represents the First Sermon at Sarnath, a key event in the life of the Buddha Shakyamuni. The hands form the double vitarka mudra of explication, which symbolises the Buddha’s teaching role. Their eloquent prominence exemplifies the artistic style of the Mon-Dvaravati period. Images of the Buddha Shakyamuni were paramount in early Dvaravati art, and indeed the Buddha’s life‑narrative remains a key feature of the Theravada Buddhist sculpture of Thailand.

The art of the Dvaravati period represents a significant turning point when local Southeast Asian variations on the Indian precedents became pronounced and confident. The distinctive Dvaravati style reflects the ideal physiognomy of the Mon people who occupied the central plains of today’s Thailand: facial elements include a broad, round face, short, wide nose and full lips forming a generous, often softly smiling mouth. The eyebrows trace a softly curving bow distinct from the more stylised continuous arching brows of subsequent Thai Buddhist sculpture.

Acquired with the generous support of David and Ruth Pfanner, this eighth-century Mon-Dvaravati Standing Buddha joins the Gallery’s fine collection of Buddhist sculptures from mainland Southeast Asia on display.

Robyn Maxwell Senior Curator, Asian Art


in artonview, issue 73, Autumn 2013

Impressively large for a bronze from the early Dvaravati kingdom of central Thailand, this rare and serenely beautiful figure depicts the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. Buddhist art flourished under the Mon-speaking rulers who dominated the region during the sixth to thirteenth centuries before they succumbed to Burmese, and later Thai, powers.

Draped around the Buddha’s slim torso is a diaphanous robe, only clearly articulated in the front of the image by the elegant sweep of cloth falling from the left shoulder. The figure represents the First Sermon at Sarnath, a key event in the life of the Buddha Shakyamuni. The hands form the double vitarka mudra of explication, which symbolises the Buddha’s teaching role. Their eloquent prominence exemplifies the artistic style of the Mon-Dvaravati period. Images of the Buddha Shakyamuni were paramount in early Dvaravati art and, indeed, the Buddha’s life narrative remains a key feature of the Theravada Buddhist sculpture of Thailand.

The art of the Dvaravati period represents a significant turning point when local Southeast Asian variations on the Indian precedents became pronounced and confident. The distinctive Dvaravati style reflects the ideal physiognomy of the Mon people who occupied the central plains of today’s Thailand: facial elements include a broad round face, short wide nose and full lips forming a generous, often gently smiling mouth. The eyebrows trace a softly curving bow distinct from the more stylised continuous arching brows of subsequent Thai Buddhist sculpture.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014