The popular Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara
is the lord of infinite compassion, an emanation of Amithaba, the oldest
of the five cosmic Buddhas. This important Buddha is the embodiment
of the cosmic element Samja (name), presides silently over the present
Kalpa (age), symbolises the stream of life (the vital fluid) and represents
the summer season. Avalokitesvara is one of the Buddhist Bodhisattvas,
the actual creators of the universe; 'Bodhi' means knowledge and 'Sattva'
means essence. After his attainment of enlightenment, he wanted to guide
beings to the path of Buddha, leading to perfection.
The sculpture clearly displays the peculiar characteristics of the Bayon
style; the legs have a powerful and heavy volume with well marked knee
caps, all the other volumes of the body are full and rounded, and the
navel is depicted in a pronounced manner. The god's costume is a short
pleated sampot with a decorative lower border, the ornamentations and
floral motifs indicated by incised lines, terminating in fishtail-shaped
ornaments in a central position at the front and back. The wide decorative
belt is embellished with the usual jewelled pendants set in square panels
surrounded by strands of pearls.
The great king Jayarvarman VII ascended the throne of Angkor after the
capital was plundered by the Chams of Vietnam. His reign (1181-1219
A.D.) marked the final outburst of Khmer artistic genius. As a devout
Buddhist, he set out to restore the glory of the Khmer empire- commissioning
innumerable images of the Buddhas, Avalokitesvara and Prajnaparamita,
to be set up in sanctuaries throughout the empire. Since the king identified
himself not only with the Buddha but also with Avalokitesvara, the cult
of the latter became more popular than at any time in Khmer history.
This particular torso is a classic example of the Bayon period (1177-1230
A.D.) and shows similarities with the great examples found at Preah-Khon
and Angkor Thom.
The high quality fine structured stone sculpture has a smooth polished
surface with a beautiful grey-greenish natural patina. This important
fragmentary sculpture represents the lord of compassion, an embodiment
of the spiritual and stylistic inspirations of the Bayon period. The
sculpture reveals fine individual physical particularities, combining
subtle and superbly voluptuous modelling with a miraculous concentration
of energy. This classic work of art may be considered among the best
monumental masterpieces of Bayon art, a worthy representation of the
great Khmer achievements in sculpture.
Formerly in the collection of Mr. H. Loschengruber, Germany.
Formerly in the collection of Mr. A. Kiepe, Germany.