We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Head of Buddha

14th century


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Sukothai period 1200 - circa 1400 → Thailand
    14th century
    Media category
    Materials used
    26.0 x 16.0 x 16.5 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Watson Bequest Fund 1963
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    By the time Buddhism reached Thailand, its images were well defined and governed by prescribed canons. In an absorbing story of permutation and evolution, Thai sculptors of the Sukhothai period (1200-1400) created a transcendental and unique statement about the spirituality of Buddha within the canonical framework. The 32 major and 80 minor anatomical characteristics necessary to create a true Buddha image include the cranial protuberance symbolic of Buddha's supernatural wisdom; the elongated earlobes signifying his princely birth; the spiral curls symbolic of his great renunciation of cutting off his princely locks; a nose like a parrot's beak; and rounded chin like a lime or mango stone. The high flame finial which would have been attached to the crown of this figure, an innovation adopted from Sri Lanka, but now synonymous with the classic Thai style, is the Fire of Knowledge that burns away selfhood, ignorance and suffering. Sukhothai sculptors preferred bronze as their medium and achieved their greatest triumphs with it. Motivated by the belief that the more perfect the statue the stronger its power, they were driven to create such distillations of condensed spirituality as that captured here.

    'Asian Art', AGNSW Collections, 1994, pg. 182.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 11 publications

  • Provenance

    Robert Haines, 1963, Bangkok/Thailand, purchased for David Jones' Art Gallery by Mr. Robert Haines.

    David Jones' Art Gallery, Sydney, Jul 1963, Sydney/New South Wales/Australia, purchased from the exhibition 'Sculpture and Ceramics from Thailand', David Jones' Art Gallery, cat.no. 25 by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.