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Seated Buddha. Thinking and Writing about Art History Essay

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Updated: Mar 30th, 2019

This paper will discuss the bronze statue called Seated Buddha. It is necessary to speak about the style of this sculpture, its artistic elements, and its relation to the social, religious political and cultural world of that period.

This work of art was created in Thailand in the fourteenth century. Its height is approximately fifty inches. The name of the sculptor remains anonymous to art historians and archeologists.

The subject of this artistic piece is Siddhārtha Gautama, the originator and spiritual leader of Buddhism. His legs are crossed and one his hands nearly touches the earth. This gesture has to symbolize Buddha’s victory over Mara. One can only deduce the true purpose of this work.

Probably, this work of art strives to demonstrate the placidity of Buddha and his serenity. Similarly, the message of this sculpture may not be clear to the viewers at once. Probably, this author tried to show that only by following the principle of Buddhism one can achieve peace with the others and with oneself.

To some degree, this statue demonstrates how an enlightened person can look like. By creating this statue, the author tried to set an example for the viewers. Yet, this is just a conjecture.

This Seated Buddha was created during the so-called Sukhothai period. This period which began in the early fourteenth century, and this work has several elements of the sculptural style which evolved during that time.

Namely, we should speak about slightly elongated head of Buddha, placid facial expression, and very smooth skin. It should be noted that during that time, the statues of Buddha were usually cast out of metal and at that time it was a real departure from the convention.

Overall, the person depicted by the sculptor produces the impression of power and tranquility. In part, my response can be explained by his posture and facial expression.

Unfortunately, we do not know whether this artistic piece fits into the career of the sculptor or not. Moreover, there is very little information about the life of this sculptor. It is quite possible that he relied on both visual and literary sources.

For example, the depictions of Buddha are present in numerous illustrated manuscripts and drawings of the twelfth and thirteenth period. We can mention such sources as the so-called Pali texts which explain how the statues of Buddha should look like (Kislenko, 81).

It is worth mentioning that these Pali texts present a very detailed portrayal of Buddha; there are many metaphoric descriptions of his face, body, feet, skin, and so forth (Kislenko, 81). Thus, the sculptor could have relied on wealthy literary tradition.

Currently, there are no documents of that period which discuss this work of art. One cannot tell how this piece was perceived by the contemporaries. Yet, we know that this sculpture was cast in during the time when the Sukhothai Kingdom was very powerful (Kislenko, 10).

Such sculptures could represent not only Buddha, but also the rulers of the country. Overall, this work of art demonstrates that such religion as Buddhism played a very important role in the life of the the Sukhothai Kingdom.

At that time, the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama became prevalent in the intellectual circles of the Sukhothai Kingdom. This philosophy truly became the mainstream ideology. Even now its importance cannot be underestimated.

It is possible to compare this Seated Buddha with other sculptures created earlier. For example, one can draw parallels between this statue and Amida Buddha created in the thirteenth-century Japan. They are similar in terms of posture and facial expression of Siddhārtha Gautama.

Nonetheless, the Japanese structure differs in terms of technique, since it is made of carved wooden pieces which were joined together. Apart from that, the hand of Amida Buddha makes a gesture which symbolizes peace. Thus, the statue that we are discussing emphasizes the perfection and power of Buddha, whereas its Japanese counterpart focuses on his peacefulness.

These are the main differences between them. These distinctions can be explained by the fact that the two sculptors perceived this person in different ways.

At this point, art historians do not know very much as to how this sculpture was created. One can see that this statue consists out several metal casts which were joined together. Yet, it is very difficult to determine the methods that the sculptor applied while creating this artistic piece.

Moreover, it is unclear if he/she made some preliminary steps in order to better visualize the image of Buddha. These questions are still of great interest to modern art historians and archeologists.

This sculpture is a prominent example of Thai art. It shows that during the Sukhothai period this culture achieved enormous degree of sophistication. Moreover, this piece demonstrates the extent to which Buddhism shaped the identity of Thai people.

In this case, Buddha symbolizes an ideal which everyone must try to attain. Finally, this artistic piece can be praised for its meticulous metalwork which is very difficult to surpass.

Works Cited

Kislenko, Arne. Culture and customs of Thailand. London: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Seated Buddha. Thinking and Writing about Art History." March 30, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/seated-buddha-thinking-and-writing-about-art-history/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Seated Buddha. Thinking and Writing about Art History'. 30 March.

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