The Singhasari style

Singhasari-period statues are characterized by their refinement, the wealth of their jewellery, the attention paid to the cloth and a certain fluidity in the postures. Although the difference is sometimes difficult to establish, most Singhasari statues are less rigid than their Majapahit counterparts and neither the fabrics nor the jewellery obliterate the modelling of the body.

Statue of Prajnaparamita of Boyolangu
Statue of Prajnaparamita of Boyolangu

Statues in the Singhasari style originated from East Java, but they soon spread, as is evidenced by the Amoghapasha Lokeshvara of Rambahan (West Sumatra), which was a gift from the Singhasari King Kertanagara [link naar 890] to a Sumatran king. Such images demonstrate the influence – and sometimes the political domination – of Java over these areas.

The lotus as dynastic emblem

The depiction of the lotus, present on most Singhasari sculptures, has often been used as a chronological marker, allowing art historians to associate certain sculptures with the Singhasari period (thirteenth century). Indeed, in the Singhasari style lotus plants grow directly from their roots, while in the Majapahit period they are often depicted as emerging from a pot or a small jar. The Prajnaparamita of Boyolangu nevertheless poses an interesting problem: according to the Nagarakertagama it was erected to honour a fourteenth-century queen and belongs to the Majapahit period, even though its lotus is growing from its roots, which, in accordance with the hypothesis followed by art historians, is a Singhasari characteristic.

For W.F. Stutterheim, this apparent contradiction is due to the fact that the lotus was a dynastic emblem, rather than a chronological or stylistic marker. Rajpatni, the queen with whom the Boyolangu Prajnaparamita is associated, belonged to the house of Singhasari (even though she married the king of Majapahit). Hence the statue is depicted with the Singhasari-style lotus.

Without going so far, one must be careful not to confuse artistic style and historical period. Styles rarely correspond to dynasties and it is not uncommon to see a style outlive the dynasty that saw its birth. The kingdom of Singhasari died in 1292, but it is easily possible that the style survived and that certain statues of the Majapahit period share the features of the Singhasari style.