Rare Baphuon Shiva Head, 11th Century
26.7 cm without stand
The extraordinary level of quality displayed in this Shiva probably points to an artist working at the royal court. The surprising treatment of the top of the head, with its high chignon, would at first seem inexplicable. Considerable care has gone into its modeling. The volumes are articulated with precision and great sensitivity, but except for the jeweled hair-ring at the base of the chignon, the surface is smooth and undecorated. The problem of the omission of Shiva’s plaited strands of hair (jatas) is probably due to allow the acceptance of a royal golden tiara or other form of head covering indicative of the status and importance of the sculpture. The eyes, including the vertical one, have been hollowed out to receive inlays, perhaps of a precious material. The technique of inlaying stone is likely a carry-over from bronze sculptures and is periodically encountered on stone sculptures from Cambodia and Thailand.
The expressive face, with its carefully articulated curving moustache, pointed chin-beard, sensitively arched brow, full flaring nostrils and sensual, ridged lips deeply undercut at the edges, all so well composed, shows Cambodian art at its apex. The ears are carved with great care and the interior is scalloped into three sections, a popular Khmer stylization. The fine proportions and quality of carving added to all the above makes this head a highlight of the Baphuon style.
This sculpture was purchase approximately 20 years ago from a reputable antique shop in Bangkok.
Similar to Plate #25
Thai and Cambodian Sculpture
Wolfgang Felten and Martin Lerner
Philip Wilson Publishers Limited