Khmer Sandstone Sculpture of Brahma
Koh Ker Style, 10th Century
Dimensions: Height 55.4 cm, Width 46.4 cm
Condition: Very good, the tip of the top flame was chipped off in ancient times. The base was broken off in ancient times but was found not far from this piece when excavated. There are small nicks throughout the sculpture, and the attribute on the lower right hand was slightly damaged. There are deposits from burial.
Given the extreme intricacy, delicacy and three-dimensional aspect of this work, it is in remarkably good condition considering its great age and the fact that I was buried and lost for centuries.
Description: This is a sandstone sculpture of Brahma in a powerful vanquishing stance, garbed in royal attire, with an attribute in each hand. The four faces of Brahma are directed towards the four cardinal points and are adjoined by one central neck. The countenance on each of the faces is calm and smiling. The incised spiral tresses of hair are pulled up into one four-lobed cylindrical chignon stylized as a tall cylindrical tuft. Embellishing the top the carefully arranged curls are four small, incised lotus blossoms and one large central lotus blossom. Fitting snugly into each forehead is an elaborate wide frontal diadem. Adorning Brahma’s neck is a heavily ornamented wide royal collar, which culminates with a large central bejeweled pendant. Ornamenting the muscles of each of the four arms, wrists and both ankles are wide beaded bands.
Covering the lower portion of the adequately proportioned body is a fine pleated sampot with wide frontal border scalloping across the upper left leg and a narrower fold across the right, which is followed by a single foliated border. The double tassel produced by the excess folds of the garment merges into an anchor-shape and cascades down to the lower edges of the feet, which are positioned with the heels in an upright position while remaining firmly planted together. Large and ferocious naga heads are positioned to the left and right of the Brahma: their upright bodies merge over his head forming a protective flaming aureole.
Brahma is considered the God of Wisdom and allegedly the creation of Brahma’s heads resulted from the four Vedas that issued forth from this mouth. Therefore, the four faces of this work are joined and adorned with four diadems while there is only one, four-lobed conical tuft which is fashioned with carefully arranged curls. The four faces represent the characteristics of the earth and each of the faces is positioned towards the four cardinal points: north, south, east and west.
Jayavarman IV left Angkor in 921 and founded Koh Ker as his new capital. It was during this reign that the sense of movement and expression that had been absent from sculpture since the beginning of the eighth century was reintroduced. The gods were once again portrayed less rigidly with expressions that reflected gentleness and spirituality. Koh Ker style sculptures are very sumptuous, impressive and graceful. The statuary is a testimony to the skill and exceptional level of craftsmanship of the sculptors during the tenth century and the dynamic stylization is in direct contrast with the hieratic attitude of earlier reigns. Characteristics that are attributed to works dating to the Koh Ker period that are also obvious with this particular work of art are the high cylindrical chignon stylized as a tuft of carefully arranged curls, the adequate proportioning of the body, the top front down turned folds of fabric which frame the finely pleaded and snugly fitting sampot and the floor length anchor-shaped tassel of the garment.
This sculpture was originally purchased from a U.S. antique dealer in the late 1960’s and was part of a larger collection that was exhibited in the Columbus Museum of Arts and Crafts, Columbus, Ga.