For the second time in less than a week, the National Museum held a ceremony yesterday marking the homecoming of priceless Angkorian artifacts looted during the civil war.
Two 10th-century Brahma heads, looted from a temple at the Koh Ker archaeological site in Preah Vihear, were added to the museum’s collection of antiquities, alongside a 10th-century Rama statue returned by an American museum on Monday.
The heads, which had formerly belonged to an unnamed private collector in Paris, were discovered by Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong in 1994 while he was the Cambodian ambassador to France, according to the release.
The Angkorian empire produced one of the most remarkable sculptural traditions in human history. Starting from Hindu and, to a lesser extent, Buddhist models, Khmer artists invented bold new techniques and sophisticated aesthetic principles that underpinned their exploration of anthropomorphic statuary. And yet the representational presuppositions of Western aesthetics only cloud our understanding of this innovation: perhaps art, in this context, does not stand in a mimetic relationship to the world, but rather itself constitutes an ‘original’, an embodied and multivalent reality that calls for a different relationship with its ‘viewer’.
This lecture will begin with a reflection on the Khmer ‘portrait statue’, considered in the traditional art history of ancient Cambodia to have been a late and peculiar invention of the reign of the last of the great Angkorian kings. However I will challenge this view, and indeed take the double ontology of these sculptures – embodying at once gods and people – to in fact constitute the baseline reality of essentially all Angkorian and post-Angkorian statuary.
Nothing is as it seems: even Angkor itself, this exemplary outlier of the Sanskrit ‘cosmopolis’ that flowered in the late first and early second millennia CE, is construed both as a fiercely singular local dominion and a universal kingdom. Microcosm and macrocosm are each set off against and magnified in the other. Within this context, a number of otherwise incongruous phenomena can be understood as manifestations of an underlying bifid structure: from the fluid ambiguity in the gendering of certain anthropomorphic representations to the determination with which religious practitioners, then as now, experience their own lives as participating in a larger cosmic life variously conveyed by art.
Recently returned after 30 years in a US museum, a priceless Angkorian statue looted from war-torn Cambodia in the early 1970s was feted at the Council of Ministers yesterday.
The 1.6-metre-tall 10th-century Torso of Rama statue was returned by the Denver Art Museum after archaeologists from the Apsara Authority were able to prove that the artefact was looted from the Prasat Chen temple in Preah Vihear province, National Museum director Kong Vireak said yesterday.
The statue’s return, which actually took place in late February, was officially marked in a handover ceremony at the Council of Ministers yesterday morning.
Using forensic techniques, the archaeologists demonstrated that the statue, which is missing its head, arms and feet, was originally connected with a plinth found at the Koh Ker archaeological site, which was heavily looted during the civil war.
The Denver Art Museum had reportedly purchased the footless statue in 1986 from the Doris Weiner Gallery in New York.
One of the greatest old-world-meets-new applications of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology is the potential for cultural and historical preservation. The ability to document and preserve precious artifacts in their current state, including distinctive marks, surface textures and coloration all in the finest of detail, means that even with the passing of time, natural disasters, or damage, future generations can appreciate and learn from the past. When he was just 17 years old, Quang Tri Nguyen recognized the importance of preserving Vietnamese culture—one of the oldest in Southeast Asia—and went so far as to drop out of school to dedicate his life to 3D scanning, documenting, and publishing digital 3D models of ancient Vietnamese sculptures on his website, VR3D.
Here’s a twist: Cambodia has returned an artefact fragment to the Cleveland Museum, after a series of tests including 3D scans showed that the fragment, part of a 6th century sculpture of Krishna, more closely matched the one in the museum’s collection, rather than the one in National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
Cambodia returned a 432-pound sculptural fragment to the Cleveland Museum of Art after new evidence including 3-D scans showed that the broken piece belongs to the museum’s monumental sixth-century stone carving of Krishna.
The museum actually owned the fragment in question between the mid-1970s and 2005, but failed in earlier attempts to match it to its Krishna.
The museum sent the fragment to Cambodia, thinking that might match another Krishna in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
But the Cleveland museum now says that new scientific information shows the fragment matches its Krishna and not a sculpture in Phnom Penh, as Cambodian authorities believed over the past decade.
After a formal request by the government of India, the Asian Civilisations Museum will return a bronze statue of Uma Parameshvari, which was identified as stolen in the recent high-profile antiquities looting case of Subhash Kapoor.
The 11th-century bronze sculpture depicting Hindu goddess Uma Parameshvari is among hundreds of stolen cultural artefacts amounting to over $148 million in an ongoing international art smuggling case. They are believed to have been looted and sold to museums by disgraced New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, 65, who is awaiting trial in India on charges of theft and smuggling.
In a press statement, the ACM said it had bought the sculpture from Kapoor’s now-defunct gallery Art of the Past for US$650,000 (S$900,000) in 2007.
The Apsara Authority yesterday received two 800-year-old statue fragments uncovered by a ploughing farmer in Siem Reap town’s Kokchak commune, near Angkor Wat.
According to an announcement from Apsara, heritage police and expert officials from the authority examined the statue, concluding that two pieces likely dated from the end of the Bayon era – around the end of 13th century.
One statue, a sitting figure, is about 20 centimetres tall by about 17 centimetres wide, and nine centimetres thick.
The other, a fragment of a statue’s head, had similar dimensions.
“After the expert officials examined and studied them, they concluded that they really are ancient statues, which are in the style of the end of Bayon Era, at the end of the 13th century.
Now the two statues were brought in for cleaning, and then they will be listed for storage and studying their ancient style before they are kept at museum,” the Apsara announcement reads.
It was a time for celebration for Cambodia last week when another statue from the Prasat Chen group in Koh Ker was returned to the country from the Cleveland Museum of Art, after it was established that the statue was illegally removed and therefore looted.
Nearly five decades after a centuries-old statue of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman was looted from a temple in Cambodia, the Cleveland Museum of Art officially handed it over to the government Tuesday during a ceremony at the Council of Ministers building.
Once part of a depiction of an epic battle between two other monkey deities, the statue was carved in the 10th century and housed at Preah Vihear province’s Prasat Chen temple, which was built as part of the one-time Khmer Empire capital of Koh Ker.
A large stone sculpture dating to the 7th century has been discovered near the Wat Phu complex of Southern Laos. The nature of the artefact is uncertain, but from the description of the shape it sounds like a lintel.
A large 7th century artifact described as one of the most significant archaeological items ever found in Laos has been unearthed at a world heritage site in the country’s south, local media reported Wednesday.
The discovery was made during archaeological excavations at Phou Kao, a mountain site associated with the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Vat Phou complex in the southern province of Champassak, state-run media Vientiane Times reported.
The piece, featuring carvings of figures from Hindu mythology, measures 2.2 meters by 90 centimeters wide.
The 22-cm-thick sculpture was located under a 20-cm layer of debris