4. Hindu Devi
Cambodia, Baphuon 11th century
Height 80 cm
This statue probably represents Uma, the lady of the mountains, or Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both major Hindu goddesses and the consorts of Shiva and Vishnu respectively. Although the figure is now without its identifying attributes it resembles a number of known statues, all with a similar hairstyle in combination with a classical sarong – the characteristic elements of those two popular female deities.
The devi’s striking facial features have been delineated with great precision. Her continuous linear eyebrows describe the subtlest of curves above open almond-shaped eyes that are delicately outlined with a double contour. The sensual mouth has finely delineated lips and the elongated earlobes are pierced with little holes that would once have accommodated real jewellery. Her graceful body has a slender torso and full firm breasts, with a horizontal beauty fold just beneath. Her hair is gathered up into a chignon divided in four knots held together with a circlet of flowers and topped by an open lotus blossom. The classical Baphuon-style sarong with its numerous pleats rolled high on the waist falls into an elegant fishtail fold at the bottom. Stone braces at the back of the ankles were intended to support the weight of the stone statue.
The figure is fully modelled in the round and the facial features echo the typical Baphuon physiognomic type. This most elegant of Khmer styles is named after the famous temple at Angkor, which dates from around 1010- 1080. Dedicated to Shiva, it would have been one of the most spectacular sanctuaries of the complex. The shape of the sarong, the hairstyle, and the very typical almond-shaped eyes with engraved pupils are all characteristic of the style.
This skilfully carved sculpture is an icon of the artistic imagination of great Khmer art during the classical Baphuon period. Imbued with a divine presence, derived from the perfection of volume and line, the devi has an elegance typical of the period. Her attractive smile imparts an air of charm and dignified liveliness.
Collection Mr A. Aylwen, Scotland, mid 1970s-2004.
Collection Mr H. Shawcross, England, 2004-2016.
Authenticity report by M. Lerner, Former Senior Curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, 17 January 2013.
M. Lerner and S. Kossak, The Arts of South and Southeast Asia, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, p. 83, fig. 88.
H. Jessup and T. Zéphir, Sculpture of Angkor and Ancient Cambodia, Millenium of Glory, Washington, 1997, p. 225, fig. 66.
E. C. Bunker and D. Latchford, Adoration and Glory, The Golden Age of Khmer Art, Chicago, 2004, p. 224, fig. 75.