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Full view: LACM.M84_183.tif

Burma (Pagan)
(Burmese)

Crowned Buddha, c. 1300-1400
60 x 12 x 5 1/2 in. (152.4 x 30.4 x 13.9 cm)
Carved wood with traces of gilding and polychrome lacquer

Description:
This sculpture is mounted on the wall.

The slender Buddha stands in an elegant posture, with slightly lowered head, right hand at the side, and left hand held to the chest. The thin, almost abstract rendering of the body is emphasized by attenuated arms and legs.

[This description is excerpted and modified from the following published sources: 1. Lorna Price, Masterpieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988), 102. 2. 'Recent Acquisitions: Crowned Buddha,' Members Bulletin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art 23, no. 2:6.]

Conservation History:
The sculpture is remarkable for its good condition. Of the small number of surviving wood Buddhas from thirteenth- to fourteenth-century Burma, few are as complete as this example. The elaborate vegetal designs on both sides of the Buddha's head are almost completely intact. Only the lower part of the robe and the original lotus pedestal are missing. The traces of lacquer and gilding on the surface may have helped preserve the wood from rot and termites.

In 1996, LACMA submitted a chip from the Buddha to the Forestry School at UCLA for identification and authentication. The wood was determined to be teak (botanical name tectona grandis). Radiocarbon dating and growth ring calculations yielded an interval for the felling date of the tree of 1148-1380 A.D. This data supports the stylistic identification of the sculpture as thirteenth-century.

[This history is excerpted and modified from departmental records and the following published sources: 1. Lorna Price, Masterpieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles:Los Angeles County Museum of Art,1988), 102. and 2. 'Recent Acquisitions: Crowned Buddha,' Members Bulletin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art 23, no. 2:6.

Upon acquiring the Buddha, the Department of South and Southeast Asian Art added a two-piece wall-mount.

Style:
Pagan, 13th century

Subject matter:
Religious figure

This sculpture represents the Buddha as he was depicted in eleventh- through thirteenth-century Pagan.

The iconic gesture of the Buddha's lowered right hand indicates the granting of a wish. The left hand grasps the end of the robe or perhaps a sacred text. Above a simple monastic robe, the figure wears the jeweled collar, earrings, and a high crown of a universal monarch (Bodhisattva). In the center of the crown rises an elaborate lotus-topped stalk of three rings. Either a part of the crown or a tall coiffure, this protuberance evokes the usnisha, the Buddha's cranial bump.

[This history is excerpted and modified from the following published sources: 1. Lorna Price, Masterpieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988), 102. 2. 'Recent Acquisitions: Crowned Buddha,' Members Bulletin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art 23, no. 2: 6.]

Context:

The Burmese temple city of Pagan underwent a spectacular flowering during the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. The Pagan kings, some of the greatest rulers of their era, left inscriptions indicating that they considered themselves enlightened Buddhist sovereigns who had acquired exceptional merit during past lives and would eventually be reborn as Buddhas.

To embellish the city's numerous brick temples, Buddhist images were created in paint, metal, stone, and wood. This carved teak figure is one of a small group that survives from the period.

[This history is excerpted and modified from the following published sources: 1. Lorna Price. Masterpieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988), 102. 2. 'Recent Acquisitions: Crowned Buddha.' Members Bulletin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Vol. 23, no. 2: 6.]

This image of the Buddha has been variously interpreted. The historical Sakyamuni is usually shown as a simple mendicant clad in a monk's robe. The elaborate ornamentation of the Pagan Buddhas suggest that they are representations of Maitreya, the future Buddha waiting as a crowned and jeweled Boddhisattva for his rebirth. There is also some indication that these sculptures may be idealized portraits of deceased kings and nobles of Pagan. Their individualized facial features--this Buddha's expression is particularly appealing and serene--indicate that some particularization was intended. Both interpretations may apply: the image could represent a historical king reborn as Maitreya.

Another theory suggests that the sculptures portray the historical Buddha in his Jambupati manifestation. According to apocryphal Laotian and Burmese texts dating at the earliest from the late eighteenth century, Sakyamuni appeared in the robes and jewels of a Boddhisattva in order to convert the king Jambupati to Buddhism. As the Jambupati tradition arose long after the flowering of Pagan, it is unlikely to apply to this image.

[This analysis is excerpted from departmental records and the following published sources: 1. Lorna Price, Masterpieces from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988), 102. 2. 'Recent Acquisitions: Crowned Buddha,' Members Bulletin, Los Angeles County Museum of Art 23, no. 2:6.]

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California, USA
No. M.84.183
Purchased with Harry Lenart Memorial Funds
Contact the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Rights and Reproductions Office.

Index terms:
Sculpture


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