VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Vishnu
MG 18860
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Various religious foundations attributable to the end of the 8th and beginning of the 9th century, with which traces of hydraulic works in this inhospitable area are associated, suggest that the lands situated in the Phnom Kulen mountains experienced a high level of settlement activity at that time. The epigraph assists the archaeologists by confirming that in 802 the sovereign Jayavarman II (reign 802-835?) ascended to the throne of the “king of the Khmer kings” and was consecrated the “universal monarch” on the Grand Indra Mountain (Mahendraparvata), i.e. Phnom Kulen. To historians this date marks the entrance, albeit loosely, into the Angkorian era (802-1431) during which the centralised Khmer empire exerted its influence from the Angkor plain. Images of the Kulen style represented all the Vishnu gods, in conformity with the religious obedience of Jayavarman II’s successor. Strictly frontal and hieratic, the Guimet Museum sculpture appears to show in the stone the founding rigour of this empire. It seems distant from the pre-Angkorian sensitivity, even if the presence of struts enabling the upper arms to be supported, stem from technical traditions that would soon be surpassed. Upright, dressed in a short loincloth marked by pleats whose layout lead to characterising this style, and hair dressed with a cylindrical mitre still in place, Vishnu is endowed with four arms and bears in his arms his attributes: club, conch, discus and earth.

History of the Object
Discovered in a shelter under a rock near Rup Arak on Phnom Kulen (Cambodia) during the 1930s, this work was sent to the Guimet Museum in 1936.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Stoneware 
Measurements
Height 142 cm.  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Cambodia; Siemreap Province; Phnom Kulen 
Geography
Cambodia 
Time period
AD 9th century ~ AD 9th century 
Creation date
9th Century; beginning 
Function
Object of worship in a Brahmanic sanctuary 
Acquisition
This work was part of a selection of Khmer sculptures which enabled the major stages of the evolution of art in ancient Cambodia to be presented in Paris. Put together by the French School of Asian Studies in 1936, this selection had been made with a view to presenting high quality objects in France that would demonstrate the French archaeological work undertaken in this part of the world, while leaving the most precious masterpieces in Cambodia on display in the Phnom Penh National Museum
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Owned by the French State, Paris, Guimet Museum 
Museum
Musée National des arts asiatiques Guimet 
Credit line
 

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