Seated Buddha

Historical period(s)
Angkor period, 12th century
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
H x W: 13.2 x 30 cm (5 3/16 x 11 13/16 in)
Geography
Cambodia
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1937.29a-d
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Sculpture
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
Angkor period (802 - 1431), Buddha, Buddhism, Cambodia, casting, dhyana mudra, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

As early as 1898
Found and excavated by an unidentified French official near Biên Hòa, Đồng Nai Province, Vietnam [1]

By 1919 to 1930s
M. Bouasse-Lebel (1868-1955), purchased from the unidentified French official [2]

1930s-1937
Paul Mallon (1884-1975), from M. Bouasse-Lebel, method of acquisition unknown [3]

From 1937
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Paul Mallon [4]

Notes:
[1] In a letter dated 15 April 1937, from the art dealer Paul Mallon (1884-1975) to the Freer Gallery of Art, Mallon notes that the French official was digging for moonstone when he discovered this bronze along with several other sculptures sometime during the year 1898. The letter also notes that the sculptures entered into Lebel's collection in 1919. Sherman Lee dates the discovery of the buried objects to 1919 instead. See Sherman Lee, "A Cambodian Bronze Hoard" in Art in America Vol. 31, no. 2 (1943), pp. 78-83. This sculpture was discovered along with six other Khmer bronze images that were excavated from a site in Vietnam. The group includes Buddhist and Hindu deities and ritual objects, all of which are small in scale. Little research has been done on the origins of the group--where the sculptures were made, how they were used, and why or how they traveled remains unknown.

[2] See letter from Paul Mallon and Lee article referenced in note 1. M. Bouasse-Lebel may be the dealer and collector Albert Bouasse-Lebel and/or a member of the family operating the Bouasse-Lebel printing and engraving firm on Rue Saint-Sulpice in Paris.

[3] See "Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List After 1920," notations in object file.

[4] The Freer Gallery of Art purchased from Paul Mallon on June 2, 1937. See notation on the object receipt, April 14, 1937, copy in accession file.

Research completed October 29, 2021.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Albert Bouasse-Lebel 1868-1955
Paul Mallon 1884-1975

Label

With a straight spine and wide shoulders, the Buddha sits in meditation on a lobed lotus pedestal, beneath the canopy of a separately cast Bodhi tree. A flat back plate surrounds him with radiating flames and naga finials. Rows of miniature Buddhas encircle the square base. The surface is covered with a lustrous green patina flecked with blue.

This sculpture was discovered along with six other Khmer bronze images that were excavated from a site in Vietnam in 1919. The group includes Buddhist and Hindu deities and ritual objects, all of which are small in scale. At less than a foot high, the Freer bronze is the largest. After a French forest ranger discovered them, the bronzes made their way into American museums in Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Detroit, Kansas City, and Washington, DC.

Little research has been done on the origins of the group--where the sculptures were made, how they were used, and why or how they traveled remains unknown. For centuries, portable bronze figures were instrumental in the spread of Indian traditions across Asia. The small stature of these bronzes suggests several possible purposes. Some of them may have been battle standards carried in royal or ritual processions, as relief carvings from temples in the Angkor area show such objects. The seemingly deliberate burial suggests that the group was a consecration deposit or sacred offering for a temple.

Published References
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. p. 11.
  • Sherman Lee. Ancient Cambodian Sculpture. no. 2, vol. 31 New York. p. 24, fig. 15.
  • Sherman Lee. Art in America, vol. 31, no.2. vol. 31, no. 2 Westport, CT and New York, NY, 1943. pp. 78-83, fig. 1.
  • George Coedes. Artibus Asiae, vol. 1, no. 3. vol. 1, no. 3 Washington and Zurich. pp. 197-197, pl. 3.
  • Dr. Hiram Woodward. The Art and Architecture of Thailand: From Prehistoric Times Through the Thirteenth Century. Handbook of Oriental studies, 1st ed. Leiden and Boston. p. 210, fig. 70b.
  • Albert Maybon. L’Amour de l’Arte, vol. 1, no. 1. vol. 1, no.1 Paris, France, 1925. p. 223, fig. 6.
  • Emma C. Bunker, Douglas Latchford. Khmer Bronzes: New Interpretations of the Past. Chicago. p. 510, fig. 6.1.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
F|S Southeast Asia
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