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.
Returned Hanuman statue. Source: Cambodia Daily 20150513
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.
For readers in Phnom Penh, a lecture by Dr Chen Chenratana on the ancient city of Koh Ker.
Koh Ker, the City of Linga during the Reign of King Jayavarman IV
21 March 2015, 9-11am
For online registration: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1YKRHe2QUEkqRhL2zenV7rf_W3O8Cd9DhH6j1xNAcuFc/viewform
In 10th Century Cambodia, King Jayavarman IV moved the capital city to Chok Gargyarin the greater Angkor area, now known as Koh Ker, where he was to stay for twenty years. It was there that Jayavarman IV built religious monuments dedicated to Hinduism as well as large scale infrastructure (i.e. irrigation system, roads) to support the local economy. The concept of urban planning was also developed fully during his reign since the capital was organized in such a way as to consolidate the king’s political power and ensure the country’s stability, security and prosperity.
This capital city lasted for 20 years, however. It was immediately abandoned after his death. Historians are still debating the underlying motivations behind Jayavarman IV’s choice of Koh Ker and the major political events that took place during his reign.
Auction house Christie’s and the Norton Simon Museum have both agreed to return statues in their possession, ‘Pandava’ and ‘Bhima’ or a temple wrestler both originally thought to be from Prasat Chen, part of the Koh Ker complex.
An ancient statue of a Hindu warrior, pulled from auction two years ago because of assertions that it had been looted from a temple deep in the jungles of Cambodia, will be returned to that country under an agreement signed on Thursday by Sotheby’s, its client and federal officials.
The accord ends a long bare-knuckled court battle over the Khmer treasure, a 10th-century statue valued at more than $2 million. The Belgian woman who had consigned it for sale in 2011 will receive no compensation for the statue from Cambodia, and Sotheby’s has expressed a willingness to pick up the cost of shipping the 500-pound sandstone antiquity to that country within the next 90 days.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is set to return two statues from Koh Ker, after a review of their provenance. These two statues are not the same ones involved in the Sotheby’s auction, but the museum’s action sets an interesting precedent for other museums.
Kneeling Attendant from Koh Ker, The Metropolitan Museum of Art 20130503
For those following the story about the Koh Ker Statues, the New York Times has a feature on the art collector who was identified in the court documents as the person who facilitated the sale of the statues.