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Head of Buddha

12th-13th century



H. 13 x W. 8 1/2 x D. 9 1/2 in. (H. 33 cm)

Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.71

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This Buddha head embodies a spiritual focus and serenity typical of sculpture created during the reign of Jayavarman VII (reigned 1181 - ca. 1218), the powerful Khmer king who erected the Bayon temple. Although textual instructions, originally from India, delineated how Buddhas should be depicted, this head was created in accordance with the standard of Cambodian beauty of this time period and it exhibits distinctive features such as a slight smile and a raised, molded browbone. The head also displays standard characteristics that indicate the Buddha's perfected and supernormal nature. These include a bump atop the head, pointed in this case, signifying his expanded wisdom (ushnisha) and downcast eyes symbolizing his understanding and mastery of meditation. His elongated earlobes refer to his early life as a prince, when he wore heavy earrings; these holes remind the faithful that they, too, should reject worldly goods and pleasures.