4. Hindu Devi
Kleang late 10th century
This statue probably represents Uma, the lady of the mountains, or Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both major Hindu goddesses and the consorts of Shiva and Vishnu respectively. Although the figure is now without its identifying attributes it resembles a number of known statues, all with a similar crown in combination with a classical sarong, the characteristic elements of those two popular female deities.
The goddess’s striking facial features have been delineated with great precision, with eyebrows describing the subtleness of curves above open almond-shaped eyes that are delicately outlined with a double contour. The sensual mouth has finely delineated lips and the elongated earlobes are pierced with little holes that would once have accommodated real probably gold jewelry. Her graceful body shows a slender torso with full firm breasts and she wears a classical sarong. The beautifully carved crown reveals great detail and precision, and it covers the goddess’s head and ushnisa.
The figure is fully modelled in the round and the facial features echo the typical Khmer physiognomic type of the later part of the 10th century. The Kleang style (968–1010 CE) was known to be less ornate than the preceding Banteay Srei style. The few temples that were built in this style are Takeo and Phimeanakas, both monuments with a restrained decorative carving. In this sculpture the sarong is left undecorated, pulling the eye of the spectator to the beautiful expression of the head and torso. The shape of the garment, the hairstyle, and the very typical almond-shaped eyes with engraved pupils are all characteristic of this rare style.
Masterfully carved, this sculpture is an icon of the artistic imagination of great Khmer art. The goddess has a majestic presence, derived from the perfection of volume and line, and her elegance is typical of 10th century Khmer Art. The Devi’s attractive smile imparts an air of charm and dignified liveliness.
Mr. Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1967–2016.
Jean Boisselier (1912–1996), member of the ‘Ecole Francaise d’Extrême-Orient’, 22 july 1982.
K. Samen, Preah Neang Devi, Collections du Musée National Phnom Penh, 2005, p. 89, ill. 23.