MATERIAL: Sandstone
TYPE: Sculpture
DIMENSIONS: 9 in. (22.9 cm) high
NOTES: Footnotes: Compare two stone heads sold at Christie's, New York, 1 & 2 October 2008, lot 433; and Amsterdam, 22 & 23 March 2011, lot 134.

Provenance: Private US Collection, acquired in New York in the 1970s
ITEM ID: 5458
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Sandstone Head of Buddha

DATE
Notes: 15/16 Century, Ayutthaya Period

History of the Ayutthayan period, 1351–1767

The Ayutthaya kingdom — about 55 miles (90 km) north of present-day Bangkok—lasted more than 400 years. During the Ayutthayan period the Tai consolidated their position as the leading power in what is now central and north-central Thailand, as well as throughout much of its southern peninsular region. Since many of Ayutthaya’s neighbours called the country “Siam” or a name similar to it, the Tai of Ayutthaya came to be known as the Siamese.

Theravada Buddhism took deep root throughout Siam during Ayutthayan times, alongside the Brahmanism that already characterized court ritual and the earlier religious practices that pervaded all levels of society. The Buddhist monastic establishment (sangha) played an important role in society, forming a focal point for village life, providing young males with an education, and offering those who elected to remain in the sangha a channel for upward social mobility.

Ayutthaya in the 17th century, according to European visitors, was one of the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It was during this period that European traders and travelers started coming to Siam. The Portuguese reached Siam as early as 1511, following their conquest of the sultanate of Malacca (Melaka) on the Malay Peninsula; they were followed in the 17th century by Dutch, English, Spanish, and French traders and missionaries. Ayutthayan kings permitted Chinese, Indian, Persian, and European traders to establish settlements, employed Japanese warriors, and allowed Western missionaries to preach within Ayutthayan domains. Eventually, however, the Europeans became overly zealous in their efforts to convert Buddhist Siamese to Christianity. In 1688 the Siamese expelled the French from Ayutthaya and all but closed their doors to the West for the next 150 years.