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Baphuon Khmer Mounted Sandstone Vishnu Statue

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Southeast Asian: Sculpture: Pre 1492: Item # 1490659

Please refer to our stock # 0633 when inquiring.
Momoyama Gallery
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An antique Khmer Vishnu in mid 11th century, pre-Angkor Baphuon style with a height of 50 cm.

Vishnu is the divine Hindu preserver and protector of human life, a role that provided natural analogies with earthly kingship for the Khmer. The Vishnu embodies authority with its iconic downcast gaze and large unexpressive faces.

The Baphuon period is generally considered to have occurred between the 11th and 12th centuries CE, during the reign of King Udayadityavarman II in the Khmer Empire. This period falls within the broader timeline of the Angkor era, which encompasses the height of Khmer power and cultural achievement.

As is typical with the Baphuon style, the general silhouette is heavier. The carving is beautiful as you can see in the fine details of each face. Details are rendered perfectly. The features suggest the prana, or inner breath, that signifies superhuman power. The fullness of the forms give the face a softness which accentuates the eyes opened wide, and the fleshy and sensual lips. The anatomy shows a strong sense of observation.

The overall silhouette is elegant and a reminder of the Pre Angkorian Art. The ornate carving of the diadem provides a delightful contrast with the smooth, polished stone, facial features. The inner rims of the ears display the characteristic tripart scalloped treatment. The eyes showing where stone jewels would have been supplemented with real jewels during rituals and ceremonies. The face is defined by slightly arched eyebrows, full rimmed lips, wide open rimmed eyes and a rather broad, flat nose. The traditional beauty lines on the neck are typical of Khmer craftsmanship.

Characteristic of the Baphuon period, the hair is drawn onto the top of the head to form a bulb shaped-chignon, held in place by a worked gold chain or a garland of flowers.

The deity is masterfully modelled in realistic human form, seated in a strong frontal posture. Given the two heads of Vishnu it is clear that the original sculpture expected this masterpiece to be viewed in the round.

The Vishnu statue has a slender waist, broad hips and shoulders, wearing a vertically striated sampot high at the back curving steeply in the front to below the navel, bound by a plain belt. The fabric pulled between the legs and wrapped around the belt at the back, the pleated ends forming a 'butterfly wing' shape. The folds are of an extreme finesse. We are in the presence of an art of great quality.

In his hands, Vishnu holds his Mala beads and kalasha. The Kalasha is believed to contain amrita, the elixir of life, and thus is viewed as a symbol of abundance, wisdom, and immortality.

As with images from this period, the ornamentation reflects a perfect mastery of sculpting and fluidity. Facial features of the statue retain characteristics of the previous Banteay Srei style, but appear more delicate. Generally, the statues are small in size, but in scale with the temple, a feeling of elegance and softness is given off by the whole.

The image radiates an aloofness, the quiet power of Vishnu typical of the Baphuon period. The embodiment of beauty, grace and charm.

The Baphuon period in Khmer history, with the construction of the Baphuon Temple at its core, represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of Khmer civilization. This period highlights the Khmer Empire's ability to create breathtaking architectural and cultural marvels that seamlessly integrated religious and political ideologies.

The Vishnu torso is loose mounted on a wood base (later).

Provenance: Ex private Dutch collection.

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