I know this fellow

Across a busy street, and down a little alley (aklang with urgent jabbering of hammers), another temple is being aluminum-clad. In the ordination hall, amidst a jumble of half-finished repousse panels, brick, mortar, cement and various vicious-looking builders' tools; and partly obscured by a door (like a naughty student punished to stand in a corner), there stands this head, about four feet high chin to top-of-headdress. It will be a giant statue of a supernatural being. Just what being, I do not know: not a Buddha (wrong sort of face), not an apsara (the headdress is too regal), not a Hindu god (the face is too sweet and too... Thai, while Hindu gods are odd-looking -- presumably Indian, or the best a Thai artist who'd never seen an Indian can imagine one).

This face is so Thai in fact that at first glance I thought it was a portrait of a friend.

This work is quite unique: I have seen few temple statues of this beauty anywhere in Thailand, none at all made within living memory. Further, temple images usually strive for the stiff monumental look -- it is meant to be otherworldly: the creatures which populate Thai Buddhist heaven are not like us (or else we would not need to strive to change ourselves). The only piece which approaches the lively realism of this head that I can think of is the 7th century black soapstone male torso of a Hindu god, discovered in the 19th century in Nakhon Si Thammarat, in the Kra Peninsula, and now housed in the Bangkok National Museum. (It is easily the most beautiful piece there). So, this is a very special work.

I want to know where this head is going. That will be the temple to worship at, obviously.


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