Head of the Buddha

citation

Buddha head. Dark gray volcanic stone. Hair evenly incised over a pronounced ushnisha, is arranged in clearly defined individual locks which curl to the right. The urna is a subtle circle in the middle of the forehead, and the earlobes are elongated. Facial details, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth are simply articulated.

Historical period(s)
Shailendra period, 8th century
Medium
Volcanic stone (andesite)
Dimensions
H x W x D: 38.1 x 23.5 x 24.1 cm (15 x 9 1/4 x 9 1/2 in)
Geography
Indonesia, Borobudur
Credit Line
Transfer from the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
Accession Number
FSC-S-16a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Sculpture, Stone
Type

Buddhist sculpture

Keywords
Buddha, Buddhism, Indonesia, Shailendra period (ca. 750 - ca. 850), urna, ushnisha
Provenance

From at least 1939
Art Gallery A. Vecht, Amsterdam [1]

1946
Kelman Joseph Ptasnik (1890-1966), New York, from at least May 1946 [2]

From 1946 to 1951
Eduard von der Heydt (1882-1964), Ascona, Switzerland, purchased from K. J. Ptasnik in May 1946 and lent to the Buffalo Museum of Science, Buffalo, New York [3]

1951
US Government vested Eduard von der Heydt's property under the provisions of "Trading with the Enemy Act" by vesting order, dated August 21, 1951 [4]

From 1964 to 1973
National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, from March 1964 [5]

From 1973
Freer Gallery of Art, transferred from National Museum of Natural History in 1973 [6]

Notes:

[1] See Sculpture of India: Eliza Buffington Memorial Exhibition, exh. cat. (Poughkeepsie: Vassar College Art Gallery, April 12-May 12, 1939), cat. 25, pl. 5. The lender of the sculpture is identified in the catalogue as A. Vecht. Aaron Vecht (1886-1965) was the owner of Art Gallery A. Vecht in Amsterdam. Around 1939 Vecht sent a portion of his gallery's stock to London and New York where his brother in law, Kelman Joseph Ptasnik was responsible for organizing storage for sent objects [information kindly provided by Constant Vecht, Aaron Vecht's grandson and director of Kunstzalen A. Vecht, in email correspondence of January 27, 2009, in object file]

[2] See "Catalogue of the Von der Heydt Loan to the Buffalo Museum of Science: Loan Material from Baron Von der Heydt, as of March 1949," where the sculpture is documented together with F1978.35 under an inventory card no. 4670, copy in object file. According to information on the inventory card, Eduard von der Heydt purchased the two sculptures from K. J. Ptasnik in May 1946. Aaron Vecht was one of von der Heydt's main dealers and in 1946 Ptasnik either acted on behalf of his brother in law or had obtained the sculpture from him.

[3] See "Catalogue of the Von der Heydt Loan to the Buffalo Museum of Science" cited in note 2.

[4] See Vesting Order No. 18344, August 21, 1951, Office of Alien Property, Department of Justice. Eduard von der Heydt exhausted all the legal remedies against the forfeiture of his property provided to him by the Trading with the Enemy Act.

[5] Attorney General, Robert Kennedy authorized transfer of the von der Heydt collection from Buffalo Museum of Science to the custody of the Smithsonian Institution in March 1964. The collection was transferred to the National Museum of Natural History. In 1966 US Congress legislated transferring the title of the von der Heydt collection to the Smithsonian Institution, see Public Law 89-503, 80 Stat. 287, July 18, 1966. The sculpture was accessioned under no. 448108, see "Smithsonian Office of Anthropology Accession Data," copy in object file.

[6] The sculpture was among 13 objects in the von der Heydt collection transferred from National Museum of Natural History to the Freer Gallery of Art, see "Smithsonian Institution Intramural Transfer of Specimens" memorandum, dated January 29, 1973, copy in object file. The sculpture was accessioned to the Freer Gallery Study Collection under no. FSC-S-16.

Previous Owner(s)

National Museum of Natural History, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution
Baron Eduard von der Heydt 1882-1964

Description

Buddha head. Dark gray volcanic stone. Hair evenly incised over a pronounced ushnisha, is arranged in clearly defined individual locks which curl to the right. The urna is a subtle circle in the middle of the forehead, and the earlobes are elongated. Facial details, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth are simply articulated.

Label

The work of a sculptor of consumate skill, this exquisitely modeled head evokes the Buddha's gentle omniscience. Buddhist texts describe thirty-two signs of the Buddha's superhuman perfection; two of these are visible here. The curl of hair (urna) resting between the Buddha's eyes symbolizes his renunciation, and the protuberance upon his head (ushnisha) signifies spiritual attainment. The head once belonged to a full-length Buddha that graced a Buddhist sanctuary in Central Java.

Collection Area(s)
Southeast Asian Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum