Sri Lankan / Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara / 8th-9th centurySri Lankan
Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
8th-9th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Indian Sub-Continent; Sri Lankan
Creator Name-CRT: Sri Lankan
Title: Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 700
Creation End Date: 899
Creation Date: 8th-9th century
Creation Place: Sri Lanka
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: Copper alloy
Dimensions: H. 4 5/8 in. (11.7 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.081
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The dating of early sculptures from Sri Lanka remains problematic and only two broad stylistic categories exist. Earlier sculptures are classified as Anuradhapura style, named after the city that was the capital from the 2nd through 10th centuries. Later works are categorized as Polonnaruwa style, also named for the location of the capital (993-1235), which was moved after Sri Lanka was attacked by the powerful Chola empire of southern India.

This sculpture of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara shows some of the stylistic and iconographic variation in Anuradhapura-style sculptures and suggests that there were complex interrelationships between the many regional styles and iconographic usages in South and Southeast Asian Buddhist art during this period. Identified by the image of a seated buddha in his headdress and the flask of ambrosia (amrta kalasha) in his left hand, Avalokiteshvara's necklace and other jewelry mark this image as a representation of the bodhisattva in his princely rather than ascetic form. Features such as the double necklace, the looped cord that runs over his left shoulder and around his right hip, and the rosettes on his armbands point to a date in the 8th or 9th century. Avalokiteshvara's relaxed posture is representative of a figural type produced during the Anuradhapura period, characterized by round forms and stylized drapery treatment, in which the lower garment hugs the legs and thighs, emphasizing the folds between the legs and the flaring sides of the garment. The largeness of the hands is shared by many types of Sri Lankan sculpture.

The close ties between Sri Lankan and Southeast Asian sculpture are illustrated in the scholarship on this Avalokiteshvara, for which several provenances have been suggested. The figure's easy, relaxed pose and the shape of his face are comparable in some respects to works made in peninsular Thailand while it was controlled by Shrivijaya; as a result, this sculpture has been published as an example of Shrivijayan sculpture. The exaggerated sense of relaxation and his fleshy form, however, set this sculpture apart from the majority of works that are accepted as examples of the Shrivijayan style. Another suggested origin is the Panduranga kingdom, which was located in parts of southern Vietnam. Very little is known about this kingdom or the art produced there; however, there are similarities between the armlets and necklace worn by this Avalokiteshvara and the jewelry found on sculptures that have been associated with this region. Nonetheless, the majority of sculptures that are attributed to Vietnam have much tauter physiques and more rigid poses. Finally, comparisons between some of the features of this sculpture and those of images from northeast Thailand and the adjacent regions of Cambodia are also possible but not conclusive. For example, the treatment of the hair as a series of overlapping curls is to some extent a simplification of the hairstyles seen in sculptures from sites such as Prakhon Chai in Thailand. Further research is needed to help define the cultural interactions between Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia in order to explain the nature of these intriguing stylistic relationships.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 39.
Related Document Description: Chutiwongs, Nandana, and Denise Patry Leidy. Buddha of the Future: An Early Maitreya from Thailand. New York: Asia Society Galleries, distributed by University of Washington Press, 1994, p. 59.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Hong Kong and Singapore: Hong Kong Museum of Art and National Museum Singapore, 1993, pp. 102, 103.
Related Document Description: Lee, Sherman E. Asian Art: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd. New York: Asia Society, 1970, pp. 34, 44.
Related Document Description: Treasures of Asian Art: Selections from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, The Asia Society, New York. Tokyo: Idemitsu Museum of Arts, 1992, pp. 72, 133.
Related Document Description: Woodward, Hiram W., Jr. 'Interrelations in a Group of South-East Asian Sculptures.' Apollo (November 1983), pp. 381-82.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.081
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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