Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Walking Buddha

This is a 14th century bronze statue standing 7’ 2.5” tall named Walking Buddha.  This sculpture depicts Buddha walking with his right hand in the gesture of reassurance called abhayamudra.  Many Buddha images in the 14th century are in one of three positions; standing, setting, or lying down, but this depiction of Buddha walking is unique to Thai art in the 13th century popularized by Sukhothai sculpture. 

Copies of this sculpture are still popular today and usually range from thousands the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Sale information of the following sculpture from New York’s Rockefeller Plaza has a price realized at $112,500, with the follow lot notes:
a large and important bronze figure of a 'walking buddha' 

  The 'Walking Buddha' is a striking Thai iconic invention emerging in bronze sculpture in the 14th century. Known at Sukhothai as cankrama ("walking back and forth") it refers to the pacing of Buddha during the third week after Enlightenment, cf. H. Woodward, The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand, 1997, p. 160ff. The variety of implications include, being a visual representation of his descent from Tavatimsa Heaven, as well as increasing the accessibility of the Buddha to the devotee by appearing to move towards him, with his right hand raised in the fear-abiding gesture. When Shakyamuni renounced his princely life he dismounted from his horse, Kanthaka, for good to become a peripatetic mendicant. Buddhist texts describe his constant wandering from city to city in the course of his teaching exemplifying the important role that the act of walking had upon the Buddha's life. It is all the more remarkable that there are no Indian prototypes of 'Walking Buddhas'. In the context of walking, the footprint also has an important connotation, first emerging in Gandharan schist sculpture as an ersatz symbol. A Sukhothai bronze image in the National Museum Bangkok shows a 'Walking Buddha' leaving a footprint behind, literally leaving his mark as a symbol of spiritual conquest. Large models of this size and condition are extremely rare; another example is in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, see R. Jacobsen, The Asian Galleries, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, 1982, p. 21, ill. upper right; and a much smaller example dated to the 14th century in the British Museum, cf. W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism, Art and Faith, 1985, cat. no. 251. The dating is consistent with the result of a thermoluminescence test of the core, Oxford, sample no. 281k15. “ - Indian and Southeast Asian Art 17 September 1999 New York, Rockefeller Plaza


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