Thai / Male Figure (Aiyanar?) / first half 7th centuryThai
Male Figure (Aiyanar?)
first half 7th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Southeast Asian; Thai
Creator Name-CRT: Thai
Title: Male Figure (Aiyanar?)
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 600
Creation End Date: 650
Creation Date: first half 7th century
Creation Place: Thailand, reportedly from Lop Buri Province, Si Thep
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Graywacke
Dimensions: H. 26 7/8 in. (68.3 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.073
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The diversity of style and iconography in sculptures produced in mainland Southeast Asia from the 6th through 9th centuries reflects the many regional cultures then thriving in that part of the world. In general, two systems of classification are used to help define the regional styles found here: one relies on political terms such as "Dvaravati" and "pre-Angkor," while the more recent system groups by language and/or ethnic types such as Mon and Khmer. This compelling seated figure illustrates the complexity and richness of art made in regions of Thailand that appear to have been influenced by Mon and Khmer cultures. The figure was badly damaged and has been repaired. A portion of the left hip and the right leg, from mid-thigh to ankle, are modern restorations. It is clear from the position of his feet that he was once seated with his right leg bent up over his left, which was laid on the ground. The figure is lightly clothed and has a meditation or yoga strap (yogapatta) around his torso and his right leg. He is distinguished by an interest in anatomy that is seen in the depiction of the bones in his upper chest and by his long, matted hair.

This sculpture has been tentatively identified as Aiyanar, one of the disciples of the Hindu god Shiva who was worshipped in south India and Sri Lanka. The name Aiyanar is Tamil, meaning "he who commands." Aiyanar was a huntsman who was believed to protect travelers and guard reservoirs, particularly at night. Comparisons with other known sculptures of this deity suggest that the right arm of this figure was resting on his knee while his left hung down.

This sculpture is reputed to have been discovered at Si Thep, in the north-central part of Thailand, and it is made of graywacke, a variety of sandstone often used in sculptures attributed to this site. Si Thep is located between two regions that are known to have been centers of Mon power and a region that is believed to have been an important center of Khmer culture prior to the development farther south of the Khmer empire during the 10th century. There is some textual evidence for the role played by the Khmers in the establishment of Si Thep. Moreover, the prevalence of Hindu imagery in the sculpture from this site also points to the Khmer rather than Mon tradition. Sculptures from Si Thep are characterized by strong, clearly delineated physiques, dramatic poses, and the minimal attention paid to their garments. For example, the thin line at this figure's waist indicates that he wore a short skirtlike garment. This style of sculpture is found at Si Thep and at sites that in fact are associated with some of the earliest traditions of Cambodian sculpture, or perhaps more carefully stated, Khmer as opposed to Mon sculpture. The relationship between these two strong traditions is one of the more perplexing and unresolved issues in the history of art in Thailand and Cambodia.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 37.
Related Document Description: Woodward, Hiram W., Jr. 'Interrelations in a Group of South-East Asian Sculptures.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 380.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.073
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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