The establishment of the new kingdom of Ayutthaya in the middle of the 14th century and the change of the political center of Thai power from Sukhothai to Ayutthaya marked the beginning of a new era of great cultural prosperity. From the capital city of Ayutthaya located at the confluence of three rivers (the Chao Phraya, the Pasak, and the Lopburi) the kingdom of Ayutthaya dominated Menam Basin for over four centuries. However, it is clear that this strategic geographical and economical site had been settled by an ancient community, long before King Ramathihodi I traditionally founded the city. Ramathihodi I was a renowned warrior and lawmaker. Under his leadership, and under his immediate successors, the kingdom rapidly expanded north towards Sukhothai and east towards the Khmer capital of Angkor Wat, which they managed to seize for a brief interval. Under royal patronage, Buddhism flourished and Ayutthaya became an important Buddhist center. The rulers of this dynasty, like the rulers of the Sukhothai Kingdom, patronized cultural and religious intercourse between Sri Lanka and Thailand and encouraged and supported the development and propagation of Sihala Buddhism in Thailand. Centuries of battles with the Burmese would eventually culminate in the sacking and burning of Ayutthaya in 1767, thus ending one of the most prosperous and culturally influential periods in Thai history.
This bronze sculpture of the Buddha’s head conveys the serenity and peacefulness associated with this great religious figure. His eyes are focused downwards, perhaps looking towards a sacred object he once held or possibly admiring the landscape or temple in which he was once situated. Maybe the completed sculpture was displayed in a raised altar and the Buddha was intended to gaze down at his followers. An inner calm and complacency is visible on his face and in his sweet smile. His ears droop down from the weight of heavy ear ornaments. The Buddha’s distinctive tightly curled hairstyle is typical of Thai representations. A flame of enlightenment rises from the top of his head, a symbol of the Buddha’s infinite wisdom. The sculpture has masterfully molded the subtle folds of fat around his neck, again indicative of the spiritual fullness and inner self-satisfaction embodied by the Buddha. Overall, this exquisite sculptural fragment beautifully memorializes one of history greatest holy figures.