A Khmer Deity ninth century found

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Musée national des Arts asiatiques-Guimet - RMN

A deity Khmer nineteenth century found his head on the occasion of an extraordinary gift

At a time when the evils of looting the temples of Cambodia are widely reported by the media,
we will rejoice in this gift that enables a masterpiece of Khmer sculpture, long known, to find some of its integrity.

A deity Khmer ninth century found his head during a rare gift in a time when the evils of looting the temples of Cambodia are widely reported by the media, we will rejoice in this gift that allows a county work of Khmer sculpture, long known, to regain some of its integrity.

On the occasion of his eighty years, the former ambassador to the United States of America, S. E. John Gunther Dean, has just offered the Guimet Museum Khmer sculpture of considerable interest.
This donation is made in recognition of the recall done at the exhibition Art treasures of Vietnam: Champa sculpture (Fall 2005), its role in protecting the Cham Museum in Da Nang (central Vietnam), when US-Vietnamese conflict.

This is a head of female divinity in perfect condition, dating from a stylistic point of view of the third quarter of the ninth century and connected with the art of Khmer Preah Ko style during this period Indeed, the Khmer sculptors carry out works to the particular sensitivity, both lofty and majestic, characterized by large proportions.
So it is with the large-featured face inscribed in a square, whose brows are processed in a continuous line and sharp.

The hair at the temples enclosed by a contour hugging and treatment of the diadem (Sanskrit: kirita), consisting of a wide headband adorned with jewels in diamonds and triangles, box edgings simple moldings, and surmounted by a frieze of florets and poles are all characteristic of this period.
In the back, this dress is held tight against the hair in a knot cross with two slopes. The hairstyle, very elaborate, consists of small braids tied to the top of the head and gathered into a bun crown (Sanskrit: jatâmukuta), from which emerge the loops arranged regularly. They take the form of a stylized cylinder.

This head was originally chosen for stylistic reasons, the Guimet Museum possessing no part of this type. Against all odds, she will, upon arrival at the museum, as belonging to a headless female deity entered the collections of the Guimet Museum in 1936 and exhibited since 1938 in the great hall of the Khmer ground floor plans of breaking, perfectly joined, leave no doubt.

The two parts together constitute the best example to date retained, female statuary of the reign of Indravarman
(third quarter of the ninth century).

Female Deity

Khmer art style of Preah Ko c. 881 Cambodia, Bakong temple

Sandstone Height : 142 cm

The body: MG 18862; sending the French School of Far East, 1936

Head: MA 12174; donation HE John Gunther Dean, 2006

Photo credit: Pierre Baptiste - Musée Guimet

An amazing story:

Around 881, King Indravarman (r. 877-886 at least) bases his state temple, a temple-mountain dedicated to Shiva, which has the appearance of a high stepped pyramid in the center of the capital: the Bakong temple. At the foot of the pyramid, eight shrines received anthropomorphic images, especially of Shiva and his wives.

In 1431, after the abandonment of Angkor, the most ancient Khmer temples are abandoned and the rainforest. The temple of Bakong gradually falls apart. During excavation work and restoration conducted in 1935 by Maurice Glaize, then curator of the Angkor monuments to the French School of Far East (É.FEO), various sculptures are found in this temple. Among them, a headless female body was found in the western sector of the sanctuary. It will be part of the works selected in 1936 by art historian Philippe Stern, then curator at the Guimet Museum, to be presented in Paris.

In keeping with the colonial authorities and Ct. OTF, a representative selection of works Khmer and Cham, the Guimet Museum for, but whose departure would not affect the quality of collected works in the new Museum of Cambodia and Vietnam had indeed been established by Stern. These pieces, all set in Paris, are the masterpieces of the collection.

The year 1939 marks the discovery of a lead among other sculptures, this time in the eastern sector of the temple. Placed on deposit with reserves of the Angkor Conservation Office, it is offered to the ambassador of the United States of America to Cambodia, HE John Gunther Dean, in 1974, as a token of gratitude for his many humanitarian efforts during the civil war that ravaged the country on the eve of the period "Khmer Rouge".

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