buddhist art


The city of Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by King U Thong. It prospered, conquered its neighbors and drove back the last Khmer influence across the Mekong River. It replaced Sukothai as the dominant power in the area in the 15th century and prospered until its destruction by the Burmese in 1767.

The early Ayutthaya Buddha images have developed from Khmer and Lopburi style, with an interesting transition period in the late 13th and early 14th century. Influences from Sukothai follow in the 14th and 15th century. The biggest achievement of the Ayutthaya artists is to bring more variety to Buddha images with respect to materials, poses and pedestals, largely in the second half of the Ayutthaya period. In the first half, sitting images in the ?Calling the Earth to Witness? pose clearly dominate. The few standing and even more so the very few walking Buddha images (following the popular Sukothai position, but quickly abandoning the walking style completely) are the rarest early Ayutthaya Buddha images. In the middle of the Ayutthaya period, a crowned Buddha image appeared, contrary to Buddhist belief that all worldly materialism should be relinquished. This may serve as a reminder of the Buddha?s noble birth, or refer to a part of the Buddhist mythology where Buddha dressed like a prince to impress others just to teach them, that outer appearance doesn?t matter, or it may be the Thai ideal of beauty that a revered image should look as precious as possible. Whatever it was, the crown decoration evolved and towards the end of the Ayutthaya period there was hardly an inch on the body and pedestal of the Buddha images that was not richly decorated with the most ornate decorations and precious stones. The plain, undecorated style continued to exist, often in wooden Buddha images and not as common as the adorned images during the late Ayuthaya period.

Ayutthaya Buddha images don?t know different regional schools, like their Lanna and Sukothai neighbors, rather the style changes over time; an evolution of the Ayutthaya style.

The different periods of Ayutthaya are:

Early Ayutthaya:
U Thong 1 (1350 ? 1448) the most desirable images, strong and awe-inspiring faces. Well defined bodies but not as muscular looking as Sukothai style. Mostly sitting and almost exclusively in ?Calling the Earth for Witness? pose. Occasional standing and extremely rare walking images.

U thong 2 (1449- 1529) noble appearance, more elegant than U Thong 1 and softer face. Regarding poses refer to U Thong 1.

Middle of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya-Suphannapoom (1530 ? 1569) more standing images, sitting images come in ?Meditation? and ?Western style? pose, but ?Calling the Earth to Witness? clearly dominates. Crowned images appear, decoration still limited to crown and sometimes one necklace and/or bracelet. Still beautiful faces, but lack a little bit the serenity and elegance of U thong.

Ayutthaya-Sukothai (1569 ? 1629), more variety, beginning of decoration of pedestals, ensembles become popular (Buddha with adoring disciples, Mara?s army). Crowned images largely like Suphannapoom

Late Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Prassattong (1630 ? 1688), heavily decorated pedestals, robes and bodies. Mostly crowned Buddha images, the crown having evolved from preceding styles, now being much higher and more elaborate. Crowned images that resemble preceding periods still exist. Sometimes plain Buddha images sit on overly decorated pedestals. It seems the more attention artists give to the decoration, the less attention is given to the faces, unfortunately also for the few remaining plain images. Beautiful faces become rare.

Ayutthaya Banpuluang (1688 ? 1767), heavy decoration of Buddha images gets even more opulent, sometimes so overloaded that the Buddha is hart to make out under all the decoration. Otherwise like Prassattong. Simple images, even on relatively plain pedestals still exist.

Ayutthaya Buddha images vary greatly in their prices. U-thong Buddha images are expensive. Outstanding pieces in good condition can even come close to Sukothai prices. In the middle and late Ayutthaya period everything depends on quality of craftsmanship, not so much on the age.

Refer to the Buddha Gallery for pictures of all the Ayutthaya periods  

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