Prajnaparamita

Historical period(s)
Angkor period, ca. 1200
Medium
Copper alloy
Style
Bayon style
Dimensions
H x W x D: 52.1 × 23.5 × 10.2 cm (20 1/2 × 9 1/4 × 4 in)
Geography
Cambodia
Credit Line
Gift of Ann and Gilbert Kinney
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S2015.26
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Sculpture
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
Angkor period (802 - 1431), Buddhism, Cambodia, Prajnaparamita
Provenance

From at least 1967-1990
Christian Humann, (1921-1981), Pan-Asian Collection, New York, NY [1]

1981-1990
Robert H. Ellsworth (1929-2014), New York, acquired after the death of Christian Humann [2]

1990
Sale, Sotheby’s, New York, Indian and Southeast Asian Sculpture form the Pan-Asian Collection, October 5, 1990, lot 127 (ill.): “A large Khmer Bronze Figure of the Goddess Prajnaparamita, Bayon style, circa 1200” [3]

1990-2015
From at least 1967-1990
Christian Humann, (1921-1981), Pan-Asian Collection, New York, NY [1]

1981-1990
Robert H. Ellsworth (1929-2014), New York, acquired after the death of Christian Humann [2]

1990
Sale, Sotheby’s, New York, Indian and Southeast Asian Sculpture form the Pan-Asian Collection, October 5, 1990, lot 127 (ill.): “A large Khmer Bronze Figure of the Goddess Prajnaparamita, Bayon style, circa 1200” [3]

1990-2015
Gilbert H. Kinney (1932-2020) and Ann Kinney, Washington, DC purchased from Sotheby’s, New York, October 5, 1990, lot 127 (ill.) [4]

From 2015
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Gilbert H. Kinney and Ann Kinney [5]

Notes:

[1] Christian Humann (1929-1981), was a member of the investment banking family of Lazard Freres and a partner in the Wall Street firm of Tucker Anthony & R. L. Day, investment bankers assembled the Pan-Asian Collection from the 1950s through the 1970s. The sculpture was lent by Pan-Asian Collection to the Denver Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977 and to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1977 to 1982.

In 1970, Hugo Munsterberg published this sculpture with illustration and listed it as part of a private collection in New York. See Hugo Munsterberg, Art of India and Southeast Asia (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970), p. 233 (ill.). In 1977 about 160 works from Christian Humann’s collection, including this sculpture, were shown anonymously in the exhibition The Sensuous Immortals, curated by Pratapaditya Pal at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, see Pratapaditya Pal, The Sensous Immortals, A Selection of Sculptures from the Pan-Asian Collection, exh. cat. (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October 25, 1977-January 15, 1978), cat. no. 147B (ill.).

[2] The New York-based collector and dealer, Robert H. Ellsworth (1929-2014) acquired Christian Humann’s collection after his death in 1981. See Sotheby’s, New York, Indian and Southeast Asian Sculpture form the Pan-Asian Collection, October 5, 1990, preface.

[3] 136 objects including this object from the Pan-Asian Collection were auctioned by Sotheby’s, New York on October 5, 1990. See Sale, Sotheby’s, New York, Indian and Southeast Asian Sculpture form the Pan-Asian Collection, October 5, 1990, lot 127 (ill.).

[4] Anne Kinney and Gilbert H. Kinney purchased this sculpture during the Sotheby’s, New York, auction on October 5, 1990. See receipt from Sotheby’s, New York to Gilbert H. Kinney, Washington, DC from October 5, 1990, copy in object file.

[5] See Acquisition Consideration Form, object file.

Research updated on November 17, 2021.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Ann Kinney
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014
Christian Humann 1929 - 1981
Gilbert H. Kinney 1932 - 2020

Label

Prajnaparamita is the Sanskrit term for “the perfection of wisdom,” which refers to the wisdom required to reach enlightenment. This highest wisdom is personified as the goddess Prajnaparamita, the mother of all Buddhas. Moreover, the Prajnaparamitasutra is one of the most important texts of Mahayana Buddhism, and the goddess is important in esoteric Buddhist ritual.

This splendid Prajnaparamita with twenty-two arms represents a distinctive form of the goddess that developed in Cambodia in the late twelfth-century.  Her eleven heads are arranged in a towering pyramid. Each is finely realized with a smiling mouth, straight nose, small almond-shaped eyes, diamond-shaped forehead mark, long earlobes, jeweled crown, and bud-shaped earrings. She holds a manuscript in her right hand and a lotus-bud stem in her left. Her twenty other arms fan outward and curl upward, lending movement and vivacity to the whole. She wears a long, vertically pleated sampot with a triple sash falling in front and is adorned with a jeweled collar, bracelets, and anklets.

The bronze is attributed by style and iconography to the Bayon Period, which is named after the Bayon temple, a symbol of the power and religiosity of the ruler Jayavarman VII (reigned ca. 1182 - 1218). The era is characterized by the establishment of esoteric Buddhism as a state religion, and as a consequence, is marked by increasingly complex rituals that required portable images of Prajnaparamita. During Jayavarman VII’s reign, the goddess was identified with both the mother of the Buddha and the ruler: Ta Prohm, an ancestor temple built by Jayavarman VII in 1186, is dedicated to both Prajnaparamita and his mother.

Published References
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 172-173.
  • Hugo Munsterberg. Art of India and Southeast Asia. New York, 1970. p. 233.
Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
F|S Southeast Asia
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