Buddha Sheltered by Naga

The object is a fragment of a sculpture entailing the head and parts of a torso and background of a Buddha figure. Most of the original surface of the torso has broken away and the top and lower right side of the Naga depiction are missing also. The face of the figure, the headdress, and the back of the Naga are carved surfaces which, though weathered, bear no major losses (an exception might be a loss to the forehead of the figure).

The stone has a deep green color and appears to be a sandstone. Small traces of what appears to be ground or pigment are seen in some recessed areas. The sculpture has an added dowel which fits in a socket in a black stone base.

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Historical period(s)
Angkor period, 12th century
Medium
Stone
Dimensions
H x W x D: 60.8 x 44.9 x 25.4 cm (23 15/16 x 17 11/16 x 10 in)
Geography
Cambodia
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John B. Bunker
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S1995.119
On View Location
Smithsonian Castle, Commons Room
Classification(s)
Sculpture, Stone
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
Angkor period (802 - 1431), Buddha, Buddhism, Cambodia, naga, ushnisha
Provenance

From at least 1959-?
Anonymous private collector, method of acquisition unknown [1]

?
Possibly Nasli Heeramaneck (1902-1971) and Alice N. (Arvine) Heeramaneck (1910-1993), method of acquisition unknown [2]

?-1995
John B. Bunker (1926-2005) and Emma (Cadwalader) Bunker (1930-2021), method of acquisition unknown [3]

From 1995
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of John B. Bunker and Emma C. Bunker [4]

Notes:

[1] This sculpture was exhibited in 1961 as part of "Khmer Sculpture" at the Asia House Gallery in New York between November 1961 and January 1962. See Ad Reinhardt, "Khmer Sculpture" [exhibition catalogue] (New York, NY: Asia House Gallery, 1961), 38-39. The object was listed as an "Anonymous Loan."

[2] According to the donor Emma C. Bunker, the sculpture was displayed in the New York City home of Nasli and Alice N. Heeramaneck. See letter from Emma C. Bunker to Milo Beach, September 22, 1995, copy in object file. In the letter, Mrs. Bunker does not provide a specific date for when she saw this sculpture at the Heeramaneck home but mentions "it sat [there] for years." Nasli Heeramaneck was a dealer of Asian and Pre-Columbian art who began his career in Paris during the 1920s and relocated to New York City in the 1930s. Many objects from the Heeramaneck collection were either purchased or donated to American museums.

[3] See note 4. Emma C. Bunker was an art historian, specializing in the art of China, and Cambodia.

[4] John B. Bunker and Emma C. Bunker donated the sculpture to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 1995. See Deed of Gift, copy in object file.

Research Completed April 26, 2022

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

John B. Bunker and Emma C. Bunker
Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck

Description

The object is a fragment of a sculpture entailing the head and parts of a torso and background of a Buddha figure. Most of the original surface of the torso has broken away and the top and lower right side of the Naga depiction are missing also. The face of the figure, the headdress, and the back of the Naga are carved surfaces which, though weathered, bear no major losses (an exception might be a loss to the forehead of the figure).

The stone has a deep green color and appears to be a sandstone. Small traces of what appears to be ground or pigment are seen in some recessed areas. The sculpture has an added dowel which fits in a socket in a black stone base.

Label

Nagas are potent, auspicious symbols throughout South and Southeast Asia. The image of the Buddha seated on a coiled serpent gained traction in Cambodia, where nagas represent the bridge between the earthy and transcendent realms. Here, the Buddha aligns his spine with the serpent's upright body, his head sheltered beneath the multiheaded cobra hood.

Published References
  • Ad Reinhardt. Khmer Sculpture. Exh. cat. New York. p. 38.
Collection Area(s)
South Asian and Himalayan Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
F|S Southeast Asia
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