Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art

Indian, Himalayan & Southeast Asian Works of Art

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 380. A Gray Sandstone Figure of Vishnu, Khmer, Angkor Wat Style, 12th Century.

Property From a New England Collection

A Gray Sandstone Figure of Vishnu, Khmer, Angkor Wat Style, 12th Century

Auction Closed

September 20, 05:33 PM GMT


100,000 - 150,000 USD

Lot Details


Property From a New England Collection

A Gray Sandstone Figure of Vishnu

Khmer, Angkor Wat Style, 12th Century

Height 23¼ in. (59 cm)

the deity clad in a short incised sampot, with a sash at front in double ‘fish-tail’ panels, the cloth pulled between the thighs, all secured by a finely carved wide jeweled belt, with square face and full lips, the hair drawn up in a conical mukuta and secured at the forehead with a broad jeweled diadem

J.J. Klejman, 11th April 1963.
Christie's New York, 16th September 2008, lot 571.

Angkor Wat, erected by King Suryavarman II (r. 1113 - circa 1150), the great ruler of the Khmer empire, was built both as the royal temple complex dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu and as the ruler’s personal mausoleum. The magnitude of this building program underscored the intention of the King to establish his authority and strength as a leader. By linking himself directly to Vishnu, the deity associated with restoring cosmic order, he legitimized his spiritual and worldly power. This is captured aesthetically in the sturdy figural proportions and powerfully frontal images created during his time, evident here in this present sculpture of Vishnu.

The style of Angkor Wat seen here harks back to the earlier styles of the Koh Ker tradition of the tenth century rather than the preceding style of the Baphuon period. Lerner states that for a “ruler concerned with martial campaigns and responsible for such a gigantic personal monument as Angkor Wat, the Baphuon figural style may have appeared too consciously unheroic and sensuous.” (M. Lerner, Ancient Khmer Sculpture, New York, 1994, p. 46.). Instead, rather than soft contours, each element has weight. The sampot is made of thick material, which creates a ridge around the figure’s torso. The two frontal hanging panels at the center appear as if they were starched into place. The thick jeweled belt secures the garment above, which, in both the front and back, appears wide and shows ‘fish-tail’ knots with a delineated motif. The face and crown show solidity too, with the broad face firmly supporting the conical diadem decorated in a linear and formulaic patterning.

Although the sturdiness of each element sits in contrast to the more polished and idealized aesthetic perfected during the Baphuon era, the robust tone is not as intensely rendered as that coming from the tenth century style. There is a softening of the heaviness of Koh Ker details, including the defined patterning in the belt, crown and creasing in the fabric. While Vishnu has taken on an earthly rendering, at the same time, he also retains hints of a more delicate and attenuated execution of the form seen during the Baphuon period. In many ways, it is a perfect support for the campaign of King Suryavarman, who sought to command his empire here on earth and at the same time safeguard his legacy for all eternity.

A related sculpture shows corresponding treatment in the arrangement of the sampot and decorative details of the crown (see W. Felten and M. Lerner, Thai and Cambodian Sculpture, London, 1988, cat. no. 29).